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COVID-19 case counts accelerate statewide, increasing locally likely due to omicron

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 4, 2022

Cars line up and snake through a large tent where people can be tested for COVID-19 Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 in the parking lot at Spokane Falls Community College.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
Cars line up and snake through a large tent where people can be tested for COVID-19 Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 in the parking lot at Spokane Falls Community College. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

COVID-19 case counts are skyrocketing statewide. After a couple months of declining virus activity following 2021’s delta variant surge, trends are reversing yet again, likely due to the new highly contagious omicron variant.

On Christmas Eve, Washington state recorded its highest daily case count statewide with more than 6,000 cases confirmed on that day. Since then, omicron has been detected in many counties and case counts continue to climb.

In Spokane County, daily case counts have increased since Dec. 26, 2021, with more than 100 new cases reported each day since then by the Spokane Regional Health District.

Hospitalizations in Spokane County have yet to increase significantly, but they are increasing statewide.

There were 1,099 patients in Washington hospitals with COVID-19 as of Jan. 2. This is an increase from two weeks ago when there were 610 COVID patients hospitalized statewide, according to Department of Health data.

State health officials say it is still too early to predict hospitalization or death trends with the omicron variant.

State epidemiologists suspect the omicron variant has overtaken the delta variant in Washington state, or will very soon. Many labs are sequencing a portion of positive COVID-19 samples for the new variant, indicating its presence in the state as well as in Spokane County.

“What we are seeing now is the leading edge. Our focus is on getting a better picture of how and where omicron is spreading,” State Epidemiologist Scott Lindquist said in a news release last week. “It is not just about counting Omicron cases. It is about sampling the entire state so we can understand the prevalence of the variant beyond high-population areas.”

With more COVID infections, the need for testing is stretched locally, as demand has increased in the last few weeks.

There has been both an increase in people with symptoms who need testing as well as those who have been exposed to someone with COVID, and the testing demand is highly correlated to case rates in Spokane County, Kira Lewis, public health nurse at SRHD, said in an email.

Current case rates are also likely to be lower than the actual rate due to the increase in at-home test kits. If you test positive for the virus using an at-home test kit, you can call (800) 525-0127, then press # to report your positive case.

The Spokane Regional Health District and state Department of Health are working to get more testing resources to communities, and increase access, but in the interim expect to wait a while.

Spokane County has two community testing sites, at Spokane Falls Community College and the Spokane Fairgrounds.

Additionally, there are self-administered test kits available at some public libraries in the county. Some health care providers and pharmacies also have testing available, but it is limited.

Here’s a look at local numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 203 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and one additional death. The district reported 724 cases over the long holiday weekend as well.

There have been 1,153 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

There are 67 patients hospitalized in Spokane County for the virus.

The Panhandle Health District reported 265 COVID-19 cases on Monday and over the long holiday weekend as well as three additional deaths.

There have been 786 deaths due to COVID-19 in Panhandle residents.

There are 61 Panhandle residents hospitalized. Kootenai Health is treating 53 COVID patients as of Monday morning.

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.

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