Despite declining case counts and virus transmission in Spokane County, health officials warned that it still is important to follow public health guidance, wear masks, keep distance and limit social gatherings.
“We know that the variants are in the country and at least two of them are in the state,” Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez told reporters Wednesday. “And they are more efficient at transmission and infection, so we have to be diligent.”
Statewide efforts to screen COVID-19 samples for variants of the virus – which have only been detected in Western Washington thus far – are ramping up. Velázquez said that next week a team of researchers from Washington State University will meet with the health district to see if testing wastewater in the county for the virus, which would include testing for variants, is a viable tool.
Testing wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 would enable the health district to detect increased concentration of cases in a geographic region or possible outbreaks, as well as help identify new variants of the virus.
Locally, virus activity continues to decline. The number of residents testing positive in the East region of the state has dropped to 10%, and Velázquez said this is a reflection of fewer people getting the virus, as testing numbers have stayed relatively flat.
Cases in Spokane County residents in their 20s and 30s were a big driver in the recent surge, but now those numbers are beginning to level out as well.
“I think the fact that everyone is being diligent about the guidance has enabled us to do this,” Velázquez said.
Despite all the progress, the Spokane County Jail has experienced an uptick in cases. As of Wednesday, there are 12 confirmed cases at the facility, and none at Geiger Corrections Center.
There are 784 people currently incarcerated in both facilities, and there are no confirmed cases among jail staff, according to a county news release.
The Spokane Arena mass vaccination site administered more than 1,000 shots on Tuesday, and staff there expect a busy week as people come in for rescheduled first-dose appointments and second-dose shots.
The site will be open only from Tuesday to Saturday going forward, and Department of Health staff are contacting about 900 people with appointments on Sunday and Monday to reschedule.
If you have a question about your appointment at the Spokane Arena, the state COVID hotline is open for questions at (800) 525-0127.
A look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 105 new cases on Wednesday, in addition to eight more deaths.
There have been 582 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.
There are currently 58 patients being treated for COVID-19 in Spokane County hospitals.
The Panhandle Health District confirmed 69 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
There are 22 Panhandle residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
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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