Spokane County reported its first COVID-19 death Friday evening after the number of confirmed cases rose to 86 earlier in the day.
Residents need to be prepared “for the long haul,” Dr. Bob Lutz, Spokane County health officer, warned Friday morning.
The man who died was a Spokane County resident in his 80s, according to the Spokane Regional Health District. Officials said he was hospitalized but would not disclose where or whether he had underlying health conditions.
“Our condolences go out to this man’s friends and family. His death is a stark reminder of the reality we face as COVID-19 continues to spread in Spokane County,” Lutz said in an evening statement.
Lutz stressed the importance of practicing social distancing and other measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“It is vital that everyone participates and takes these measures seriously,” he said.
While some Spokane residents seem to be taking social distancing measures seriously, as evidenced by a significant decrease in people using Spokane Transit Authority buses, the number of COVID-19 cases is expected to continue to grow in the coming days. The 86 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Spokane County Friday was an increase from 67 on Thursday.
“Obviously many people are concerned about the uptick in numbers, and I would suggest to you that this is a function of more testing being available at not only the screening site at the fairgrounds but throughout our entire community,” Lutz said Friday. “I think this gives everyone real evidence that COVID-19 is spreading throughout our community, and I want people to realize that these numbers will continue to rise.”
Lutz said that local hospital capacity has not been taxed at this point. Ten Spokane County residents were in the hospital with COVID-19 on Friday.
Statewide, the number of confirmed cases grew by more than 500 from Thursday to 3,723 as of Friday afternoon, with cases in nearly every county. At least 175 Washington residents have died from the virus, an increase of 28 from Thursday’s numbers.
East of the Cascades, local health districts in 17 counties reported more than 300 cases and 10 deaths, according to the state health department. Seventy-two of those cases were in Yakima County and five of the deaths were reported in Benton County.
In Spokane, local organizations, including STA and Spokane C.O.P.S. announced Friday new services to help senior citizens who have been told to isolate themselves.
Brandon Rapez-Betty, STA spokesman, said that regular bus routes are carrying about a third of their normal passenger load each day, and paratransit rides are down 80%.
“These numbers indicate that people are adhering to Gov. Inslee’s ‘stay home, stay healthy’ order,” Rapez-Betty said.
STA is launching a new service, due to its new additional capacity, called Rides for Seniors, which will serve community members older than 60 years old who need a ride for an essential trip to the grocery store, pharmacy, work or the doctor’s office.
People can call with two hours notice or schedule a ride a day in advance with the service, and seniors who need assistance can bring one companion. STA plans to limit the number of passengers in vans, in order to social distance. STA has suspended all fares for riders, and residents interested in scheduling a ride for an essential trip through Rides for Seniors can call (509) 328-1552.
Spokane C.O.P.S., a local crime prevention nonprofit, also is offering services for the elderly, including check-ins, deliveries of groceries and other supplies and medication pick-ups. People can call the nonprofit’s main office at (509) 625-3300 to request help for themselves or someone else. Uniformed staff and volunteers will arrive in marked vehicles and provide identification.
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