‘We are as prepared as we can be’: SRHD addresses high case rates and testing needs amid omicron surge

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Spokane Regional Health District reported another high number of positive COVID tests Wednesday. The health district says 669 people contracted coronavirus in the last day.

On Tuesday, SRHD reported its second-highest record of COVID cases during the pandemic.

While these numbers are high, it’s important to note that people have been waiting to get tested. Mass testing sites closed over the holiday weekend. Plus, results are taking longer to come back.

RELATED: Spokane County reports near-record number of new COVID-19 cases

During this surge, SRHD’s health officer, Dr. Frank Velazquez, believes they’re as prepared as can be for omicron and surge in cases.

“To some that may not be enough, but it certainly has been a constant and consistent effort,” he said. “I do have to say it’s not only us in the Spokane Regional Health District because we continue to work really closely with health care providers, education, retail, events and venues, and others, trying to provide as much protection as we can with as much information as we can.”

Demand is only increasing for COVID tests as omicron spreads; appointments are also at an all-time high for the mass testing sites and lines are long to get one, according to Discovery Health MD, the operator.

Discovery Health’s Daniel Pulse said they tested 879 people on Monday; 907 on Tuesday. These are all-time highs for the health provider at these testing sites since it opened in mid-October.

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The mass testing sites in Spokane are still not enough to meet the need the county is seeing. Both the testing sites at Spokane Falls Community College and the Spokane County Fairgrounds and Expo Center are only open four days a week, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Both SRHD and Discovery Health say they’re in talks of extending the days for testing to seven days a week to meet the need. However, Pulse says it does not have enough staff to open the whole week.

What else is SRHD doing to meet the need for testing?

Velazquez says they are exploring “other options for testing.”

“We’re in conversations with the Department of Health and others that could potentially enhance the capacity that is available for consumer base testing,” he said.

Velazquez gave the example of possibly using deployable testing sites, where people can walk up and get tested. However, they’re still running into roadblocks.

“Those are all being worked on and we’ve been working on it for a while. I do tell you, our partners and providers do have the intentions, but they do have their own limitations on staffing, supplies and other issues that come along,” he said.

While waiting to get tested or waiting for results, Velazquez says people need to continue to be diligent, wear masks and get vaccinated.

To contain this virus surge, on Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee announced the state is receiving 5.5 million at-home rapid tests in the coming weeks. They’ll be distributed throughout health districts and schools to get to people. Inslee said families can even request tests straight to their home, and that portal to request will be opened in a few weeks.

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