Path 4Ward: Spokane Co. health officer says pandemic safety measures likely the new normal

SPOKANE, Wash. — The COVID-19 pandemic put public health square in the public eye.

Not many people in Spokane knew the name “Dr. Bob Lutz” before the outbreak, but most do now. He is the man guiding Spokane County’s health response.

When asked about the county’s early intervention, Lutz said measures like social distancing and staying home were known to be effective. He said the biggest challenge was getting the community to buy in.

“We talked very early on about these non-pharmaceutical interventions, things like physical distancing, hand washing and staying home, sort of simple things that have shown time in and time out to help with outbreaks,” Lutz said. “Early on, I was very pleased. I think there has been sort of a relaxing. I don’t want to say complacency, but to some degree, complacency because people don’t know necessarily, they don’t see the numbers as being that significant. Maybe they don’t know anybody who’s actually been infected, let alone hospitalized or die of it.”

Lutz said he predicts some of the measures practiced during the pandemic will continue into the future.

“I think, to some degree, that physical distancing of how we greet people is going to be our new reality for awhile. I think that we’re probably going to be seeing, encouraging more working from home, working telecommuting, not having to be in the office if you don’t have to be,” Lutz said.

He also believes that some of the hygiene measures will carry over for the next few years.

“I think you’re still going to see the expectation, that if you’re a business owner, you will be required to make sure you’re following certain sanitation practices, you’re cleaning more frequently, things of that sort,” Lutz said. “So, I think those will be the things we’ll be seeing the next couple of years.”

Moving forward, Lutz encourages the community to have patience.

“I definitely empathize with folks for the challenges and the sacrifices that we have asked people to take to save lives. I’m also really aware of the fact that now we have been and we will be impacting livelihoods. That said, we need to be working together,” Lutz said. “It’s a community effort… you know, I care about you as a community member. You care about me. I’m concerned about your livelihood, I’m going to do everything I can to try to keep it going, but we don’t want to go back to where we were and therefore, it’s going to require us to be very cautious and very calibrated as we move forward.”

Lutz said the path forward will not be life as normal. It may be a new normal for awhile to come.

“But, please be patient because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just have to be patient in getting to it.”

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