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Health officials ask public to wear masks, gather outside for Labor Day

The delta variant’s transmissibility has led to more people, including children and teens, testing positive for the virus as Labor Day approaches, and health officials are asking people to take safety precautions over the holiday weekend.

Earlier this week, six children were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Spokane.

Wednesday, that number has dropped to three, including one in the pediatric intensive care unit.

The numbers, while low, indicate an increase in young people being hospitalized with the virus. During the winter surge, it was often the case that one child or teen would be hospitalized at a time for the virus.

Case counts overall are steadily increasing as the three-day weekend approaches, and health officials are asking people to gather safely by going outdoors, wearing masks and limiting the number of people at gatherings.

“If you are going to be outdoors and it’s crowded, I do recommend wearing masks,” Spokane County Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez said.

The Spokane Regional Health District has asked the state health department for resources to open a mass testing site, as demand for testing has increased in the last month and will likely continue.

Velázquez said Spokane is not the only jurisdiction asking for resources, however, and staffing a site like that would be a challenge.

The vaccination rate in Spokane County has slowly increased in the past month. About half of the total population and 59.2% of eligible Spokane residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

A look at numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 362 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and six additional deaths.

There have been 746 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

There are 226 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 339 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death. There have been 374 deaths due to COVID in Panhandle residents.

There are 104 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories 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.