The second pandemic holiday season is upon us.
With a new coronavirus variant on the way and delta still circulating, health officials are recommending several measures from testing to booster doses to masking to stay safe for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022.
If you are going to travel or attend a large gathering, regional Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez suggests getting tested before you go, regardless of your vaccination status or whether you’ve been boosted.
Lab-based PCR tests typically take one to three days to get results back, while rapid tests can get results in as little as 10 minutes to an hour.
Avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask in settings where you are unsure of everyone’s vaccination status is also recommended.
And if you are experiencing any symptoms, like a dry cough, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, fever or any other flu or cold symptoms, health officials recommend getting tested for the virus.
With many people utilizing at-home testing, health officials are asking that residents who test positive report their results to the state Department of Health.
To report a positive COVID at-home test, call (800) 525-0127. The Department of Health will notify the Spokane Regional Health District, which will initiate the contact tracing process. Also, if you have it activated, report your positive test result into the WA Notify app to generate automatic notifications to your recent close contacts.
If you test positive and need resources such as isolation space, groceries delivered or other services, reporting your test results is important. The local health district should reach out to you, and the contact tracing team will be able to offer and refer you to services if needed.
Velázquez also recommends reaching out to your health care provider if you test positive for COVID-19 using a rapid at-home test to see if you need to get a lab-based PCR test to confirm the results or for how long you need to isolate.
A negative test result on a rapid at-home test means there is no virus detected at that particular time, but this result could be misleading depending on the timing of exposure before taking the test.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist recommends anyone experiencing symptoms who tests negative using an at-home test to seek medical advice.
“If you do a test, and it’s negative and have symptoms, then go talk to your provider and get a better test,” Lindquist told reporters this week.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate for at least 10 days after your symptoms began or you tested positive, but when you come out of isolation will depend on your course of illness and other guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials are pushing booster doses for anyone who is eligible, which is those 16 and older who are either six months past their last Moderna or Pfizer dose, or two months past their Johnson & Johnson dose.
Velázquez said that booster doses, like the vaccines, require two weeks to produce an immune response. If you can’t get a booster shot before a holiday gathering, he recommends getting tested, wearing masks and keeping gatherings small.
For fully vaccinated and boosted small gatherings, Velázquez said going without masks is okay. But for larger gatherings or if you are unsure of a person’s vaccination status, it’s safer to mask up.
“When in doubt, keep your mask on,” he said.
There are no omicron cases confirmed in Spokane County yet, but it is only a matter of time.
The new variant might be more contagious than delta, and modelers are predicting a sizable increase in cases in the coming weeks as it spreads.
Where to find COVID tests in Spokane County
- Community testing sites:
- Spokane Falls Community College drive-through testing site is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, this site will offer rapid antigen tests from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. instead of the lab-based PCR tests typically done at the site. Drive-ups are welcome, but you can
make an appointment online as well
- Spokane Fair & Expo Center drive-through testing site is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This site also offers PCR tests, which can take two to three days to get results back. This site will be closed on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Drive-ups are welcome, but you can
- Say Yes COVID Test
- Nearly every resident in Eastern Washington qualifies for free at-home COVID testing.
- and you will be sent eight at-home COVID tests right to your doorstep. The supplies are going quickly, however, and are expected to run out by Christmas Eve.
- County Library Testing
- There are mail-in lab-based PCR test kits available
- . The test kits are self-administered, and after you mail in your sample, you can expect results in up to three days.
- Pharmacies, urgent care clinics, providers
- Some local pharmacies, like Rite Aid, Walgreens or Safeway/Albertsons, as well as health care providers, are offering testing to their customers or to those who make appointments. There were limited drive-through testing appointments at many pharmacies this week, but some pharmacies also sell at-home COVID test kits in their stores. For more county testing options,
Where to find COVID booster shots
Booster shots are in short supply this week in Spokane County. Some providers and clinics in Spokane County still have booster doses available next week, but many pharmacies are not scheduling booster doses until the new year.
To find a booster dose, use the state’s vaccine locator tool or call (833) VAX-HELP. State leaders and health officials are working to make booster shots more widely available, but these solutions will likely not come online until next week at the earliest.
Here’s a look at local numbers
The Spokane Regional Health District reported 68 new COVID cases on Wednesday and two additional deaths.
There have been 1,138 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.
There are 72 patients hospitalized in Spokane with COVID-19.
The Panhandle Health District reported 91 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and seven additional deaths.
There have been 761 deaths due to COVID-19 in Panhandle residents.
There are 73 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.
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