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COVID-19 cases rising in Washington, but health officials see ‘steady course’

With the help of his mom, Eileen Locher and support from nurse Stephanie Breckon on far right, Gabriel Locher, 6, receives his COVID-19 vaccine shot from volunteer Dr. Nancy Starr at a in-school COVID vaccination clinic for kids aged 5-11, Nov. 17, 2020, at Trent Elementary School.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Following similar trends nationwide, COVID-19 case rates are rising in Washington.

The statewide average of cases over the past seven days is 228 per 100,000 people, keeping Washington in the state Department of Health’s highest-risk category for the spread of COVID-19. Epidemiological curves show the number is still climbing.

But Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday the best projections from health officials show there is likely to be a plateau in the relatively near future.

“At the moment we do not see it getting into that zone where our hospitals can’t function,” he said. “We see a steady course.”

The most recent statewide data, complete through the week of May 11, shows the average percent in the last week of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients is still at one of its lowest points in the pandemic, at about 6%.

But it is increasing. At its peak in January, that number was almost 32%.

Similarly, the average percent in the last week of intensive care unit beds occupied by COVID-19 patients is still low. It’s at 4% statewide.

Locally, the numbers are similar with case rates inching up and hospitalizations staying low. The weekly average for COVID-19 cases is 77 per 100,000. There were five more people hospitalized the past week for COVID-19, still low compared to other points in the pandemic.

Inslee on Friday issued updated guidance for vaccine requirements for state employees, lifting the requirement for outdoor volunteers and contractors whose work does not involve delivery of health care services. Those can include landscapers, wildland firefighters and construction workers.

The vaccine requirement for all other state employees remains in effect, and Inslee on Wednesday said he would not be lifting it anytime soon.

Inslee also said the state is not looking into reinstating any mask mandates or other preventative measures, but as always, things could change quickly.

“As I’ve said, many, many times, this is a wily beast,” Inslee said.

Kids’ boosters approvedPfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster shots are available for children ages 5 to 11 in Washington.

Following this week’s recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, the state Department of Health expanded eligibility for kids to get another dose.

Children should receive a booster dose five months after completing their primary series of Pfizer. Immunocompromised children can receive theirs at least three months after their primary series.

“This pandemic is not over and we must continue to use the tools at our disposal,” Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said in a statement. “This includes masking, therapeutics, vaccinations and – of course – boosters. Keeping yourselves and those around you safe is of utmost importance, and this recommendation is another step in that direction.”

To find a vaccine or booster appointment, visit

This week’s local numbers

In Spokane County, there were 419 cases this week. The case rate for the past seven days is 77.3 per 100,000. That’s up from 64.6 last week.

The hospital admission rate is 0.9 per 100,000 for the past seven days, down from 1.3 the week prior. There were five new hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in the past week.

One more person died of COVID-19 in the past week, bringing the county’s total to 1,350.

The Panhandle Health District reported 140 new cases in the last week. There are four people hospitalized with the virus in the district.

No new deaths were reported in the past week.

Laurel Demkovich'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.