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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Record COVID-19 cases recorded in Spokane; schools attempt to blunt further spread

The Spokane Public Schools building downtown is shown.  (JESSE TINSLEY)

A record 1,886 new cases of COVID-19 were reported for Spokane County on Thursday.

And that number is likely low due to case-count backlogs and the many people who tested positive with at-home test kits and didn’t report their infection.

The surge in cases – in the past two weeks, the number of people with confirmed cases logged with the Spokane Regional Health District is 13,069 – is attributed to the omicron variant, which is forecast to peak sometime in early February. In the meantime, the toll continues to affect local schools.

Spokane Public Schools will have no classes on Monday; Central Valley reported more than 1,000 cases in the past 10 days; and two large middle schools in West Valley and Coeur d’Alene will temporarily shift to remote learning.

In a letter sent to families Thursday afternoon, Spokane Public Schools said that “based on an evaluation of the current conditions and ongoing staffing shortages, we will be moving forward with adjusting the school calendar to utilize Jan. 24 as a ‘no school day.’ ”

The move is an effort to avoid what the district called abrupt, unplanned school closures.

Monday’s school closure will be made up on March 4, which was scheduled as Professional Learning Improvement Day.

There will be no morning or afternoon child care, including Express and preschool programs, on Monday, the district said. Athletics and extracurricular activities scheduled for that day are being adjusted to the greatest extent possible.

Also on Thursday, two middle schools moved temporarily to remote learning because of COVID-related staffing shortages.

In the West Valley district, Centennial Middle School went remote on Thursday and will do so through Monday.

The school reported 400 students absent on Wednesday because of quarantine or illness.

In-person learning will resume on Tuesday for students who choose to participate in the “Test to Stay” protocol. This protocol requires students to be symptom-free and test negative for COVID-19 before returning to school.

Overall, Central Valley reported late Wednesday night that it had 1,244 positive cases on the last 10 days, including almost 400 at its three comprehensive high schools.

At Woodland Middle School in Coeur d’Alene, the absence of 19 staffers and a districtwide substitute shortage is pushing classes online Friday and Monday – and perhaps longer.

“We are prepared to continue with remote learning after Monday if our staffing challenges persist,” the district said in a letter to families. “We are continuously evaluating this situation and will let you know on Monday the plan for Tuesday and beyond.”

The letter added that Coeur d’Alene Schools had 100 teacher absences on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Cheney reported 283 positive cases since Jan 10, including 129 at Cheney High School. Medical Lake had 117 cases in the last two weeks.