While data is still preliminary, Washington health officials say there are signs of COVID-19 activity leveling off statewide. But Spokane County is an entirely different story, with county health officials confirming more than 200 cases in the last two days, including 112 on Thursday.
State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said there has been a statewide decrease in the number of COVID-19 tests administered since Labor Day, but the percent positivity rate statewide is still relatively low at 3%.
Locally, Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz told reporters Wednesday that testing has increased in recent weeks, but it looks as though those tests are also yielding more positive results.
Spokane County’s COVID-19 incidence rate began to climb again after dropping in late summer to as low as 90 cases per 100,000 residents. It is now at 111 cases per 100,000 residents and appears to be trending upward.
With the Spokane Regional Health District confirming more than 200 cases in two days, the county’s percent positivity rate is now 9.2%, well above the state average.
The county has had 162 deaths from the virus, while there are 37 patients being treated for COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals, and 30 of them are county residents.
Lutz asked county residents on Wednesday to continue to practice nonpharmaceutical interventions, from wearing masks to limiting gatherings, despite the fatigue.
“We want to be back to normal,” he said, noting that it will take a communitywide effort to drive virus activity down further.
While Gov. Jay Inslee could not give an exact date when counties will be eligible to move through reopening phases again, he pointed to guidance released in recent weeks that has opened up agritourism, weddings, funerals, gyms and other facilities throughout the state instead.
“We’ve had a lot of opening activity in the last month,” he said.
He said his office will continue to look at COVID-19 numbers, which have fallen since late summer statewide, as well as prioritizing getting children back in the classroom.
The majority of counties in southeast Washington and Spokane County still have too high of COVID-19 incidence rates to be considered ready for advancing to the next phase at this point.
Inslee asked state residents, particularly college students, to not gather in large numbers or have big parties. Looking to other states’ case rates, Inslee said Washington’s restrictions, like the mask mandate and phased reopening, have worked.
“If you compare our state and our experience to other states that have lifted these restrictions, it is markedly different,” Inslee said.
The governor noted federal help from Congress would be appreciated, and he said he remained hopeful another financial package to help states would be approved.
Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.
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