Mayor, health officer detail what will it take to reopen the local economy

SPOKANE, Wash. — While Dr. Bob Lutz is cautiously optimistic about the coronavirus trends he is seeing locally, he says Spokane County is not ready to return to business as usual just yet.

“We can’t return to normal at this point, because I want to make sure that we do return to normal at some time in the future,” he says.

Since March 14, 272 people in Spokane County have tested positive for COVID-19, but Dr. Lutz says those cases are starting to level off. He says he is encouraged by the number of new cases reported daily. In mid-March, there was a spike of 21 cases overnight. Over the weekend, one day saw a spike of 11 cases, including an outbreak at the Spokane Veterans Home.

“We’re still seeing new cases, but I’m encouraged, guardedly, that the numbers we’re seeing reflect the fact that the governor’s stay home, stay healthy message is having an impact,” he says. “Now, gradually, they are coming down, which for me, is a note for guarded optimism.”

In addition to new cases reported daily, Dr. Lutz is focusing on COVID-19 clusters or hotspots, as well as the number of hospitalizations in Spokane County. Spokane mayor Nadine Woodward says the reopening of the city’s economy will depend on Dr. Lutz’s recommendation, which will hinge on those three factors.

“What does it look like when we open the economy back up? It will be in increments, it won’t be all at once,” she says. “We need to make sure that it’s backed up by data and then when we do start opening segments of the economy, we need to be tracking that data even moreso to make sure we don’t have an uptick on cases and we don’t see another wave of COVID come into our community.”