COVID-19 test results are being returned faster, but it’s still taking several days in Spokane County

SPOKANE CO., Wash. — Spokane County’s top health officer said he is cautiously optimistic that “things are starting to turn” in regard to COVID-19 data reporting in the county, but added that there is still a “ways to go.”

During a press briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Bob Lutz said test results are now coming back within seven days. For the past month, it was taking 10 days for COVID tests results to be returned. According to Lutz, the health district has found new labs and companies to process more tests locally, meaning fewer tests are being sent to western Washington or out of state.

“Results are definitely coming back faster… it’s interesting, I’ve learned of a couple new resources for us that seem to be doing more testing,” Lutz said. “Providers were just really frustrated by the fact that there was that seven to 10 day turn around, so they just went elsewhere.”

In addition to efforts to ramp up testing, additional steps are being taken to increase contact tracing. The regional health district and state department of health have received extra help recently and are adding more employees to assist with contact tracing efforts.

Meantime, Spokane County’s new case rate remains alarmingly high, sitting around 214 cases per 100,000 people. Lutz said the fact that it is not rising “exponentially” this week is a good sign, however.

Lutz said the hospitalization rate remains a big concern, especially among people in rural towns across eastern Washington. He said it will only take a few infections in smaller towns for a massive outbreak to happen and those people often end up in Spokane because of limited access to health care.

“You … don’t have access to resources, for not only testing, but also if hospitalizations are necessary,” Lutz said regarding rural areas.

Okanogan County is one of the rural areas with those problems. They have the 26th largest population in Washington but also the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the state.

As of Wednesday morning, 73 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Spokane County hospitals; 49 of those people are Spokane County residents.

Find the latest data from SRHD here. 

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