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Spokane County residents will need to do more to drive COVID-19 rates down

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 13, 2021

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane County is likely seeing the effect of holiday gatherings, with an increased spread of COVID-19 in the community since Christmas.

“We do believe some of this is impact from potential holiday gatherings, although the numbers are not as high as we’d seen other times,” interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez said. “So I’m still optimistic this will flatten out again in the near future.”

Statewide, health officials are seeing an uptick in cases as well.

“The concern is, we’re having spikes in cases in many of our counties across the state,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist told reporters Wednesday.

The Spokane Regional Health District has confirmed more than 1,000 cases since Monday, including 354 new cases on Wednesday.

To advance in the governor’s reopening phases, the county and the entire “East” region will need to drive down the percent positivity rate, Velázquez acknowledged. The most recent state report says the Eastern Washington counties are at 17% positive. That figure needs to be below 10% to advance to Phase 2 of the new roadmap phases Gov. Jay Inslee introduced.

Additionally, broadened testing will be necessary in order to bring down the positivity rate countywide. Currently, most testing sites in the county are only testing people with symptoms or known exposures to the virus. Velázquez said he has created a testing task force, which includes a number of groups from the community to look at the community’s testing needs into the future.

Velázquez said the community needs to continue to adhere to public health guidelines in order to drive down the region’s percent positivity as well.

“The less virus we spread, the lower those rates will get,” Velázquez said.

Hospitalizations remain steady and at high levels. There are 131 patients in Spokane hospitals being treated for COVID-19. The Spokane Regional Health District reported three new deaths Wednesday.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 221 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday in addition to four more deaths.

There are 75 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus at Kootenai Health, and 21 of them are in the critical care unit.

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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