‘Every age group is affected’: Spokane Co. Health Officer addresses COVID-19 questions

Dr. Lutz Presser

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz held a small conference Sunday morning, providing updates on COVID-19 testing and fielding online questions.

Dr. Lutz opened with a reminder that the flu is still working its way through the community, and could cause confusion with ‘COVID-like illness,’ due to its symptoms.

According to the Spokane Regional Health District, ‘COVID-like illness’ is used to describe possible symptoms of COVID-19, but without an official diagnosis. Someone with a COVID-like illness may have fever, chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing or possibly a sore throat, but they have either not been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have been advised against screening by a healthcare provider.

Dr. Lutz recommends that people talk with their provider or call a nurse hotline to check over their symptoms.
People most at risk for COVID-19 are those over 60 years old, people with existing medical conditions like lung problems, heart problems, diabetes, cancer and kidney problems, and anyone taking medication that could increase their risk to illness.

Despite this, however, it does not mean everyone else is immune to the virus; Panhandle Health confirmed three cases on Sunday, including two people in their 30s and a girl under 18.

RELATED: Panhandle Health confirms six cases of COVID-19 in North Idaho

“Every age group is affected,” said Dr. Lutz. “Certainly, older individuals appear to be more susceptible, but that doesn’t mean 20-30 year olds are not going to get infected; and, indeed, one of my concerns is that many people in this age group, they may have very mild symptoms… they are, however, contagious.”

A COVID-19 screening center opened at the Spokane County Fairgrounds, and Dr. Bob Lutz noted that no paper referral is required—simply let staff know that you spoke with your doctor.

RELATED: Drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic opens at Spokane County Fairgrounds

Regardless if whether someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has symptoms of a COVID-like illness, Dr. Lutz says the treatment is the same: self-isolation, plenty of rest, plenty of fluids, and medication.

Dr. Lutz says that once someone is fever-free for three days and off all meds, or symptom-free after 7-10 days, he says they can effectively consider themselves over the coronavirus.

“Right now, the guidelines are saying seven days,” said Dr. Lutz, “We are, however, in an overabundance of caution, encouraging people to consider self-isolating for up to ten days. And even when you are out and about after that time frame, still continue to practice all those self-distancing, social-distancing practices we’ve been encouraging.”

Fielding some online questions, Dr. Lutz said there is no evidence that COVID-19 can live on food.

The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that is transmitted through droplets, says Dr. Lutz—droplets that spread through the air when sneezing or coughing. It is only when they enter someone else’s respiratory system, through breathing them in or touching around their nose, that the virus takes hold. Simply eating a droplet that may have landed on food is not inherently dangerous.

A large concern, Dr. Lutz says, is with hand-to-face contact. Touching a surface infected with COVID-19 is not dangerous until you touch your face, where it can potentially travel down into your respiratory system.

“If you are touching something, you’re not touching your face,” said Dr. Lutz.

Dr. Lutz concluded that COVID-19, most of the time, does not require hospitalization, and can be cured with self-isolation, plenty of rest, plenty of fluids, and fever-reducing medication.