Path 4Ward: What local health officials have learned in the fight against COVID-19

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s been 80 days since Governor Inslee issued that first stay home order in Washington. 

The point of that was to limit the spread of COVID-19, so our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed. 

That worked, but now health officials are preparing for the fall when flu season could clash with COVID-19. 

The most valuable lessons in our lives aren’t taught; they’re experienced. 

And that’s certainly the case with this COVID-19 pandemic. 

There wasn’t a book with all the answers, it was up to out health professionals to find that answer on their own. 

“What we’re learning now will put us in a much better position as far as preparedness and dealing with it,” said Dan Getz, chief medical officer. 

They learned quite a bit, like how to treat these COVID-19 patients. There’s still no cure just yet, but there is remdesivir- a drug used to treat Ebola. 

“Our sickest patients, patients that have trouble getting enough oxygen, they’re going to do better when they get remdesivir,” said Getz. 

But, this virus isn’t your ordinary cold. It takes time to fully recover. 

“Recovery is long. These folks might be in your ICU for 2-3 weeks and then when they get out, they don’t just generally go home. They often rehab for maybe a month or two as they try to get back to the physical condition they were at before,” said Getz. 

He says some patients may suffer long-term lung damage, or even memory loss and concentration issues. 

Hospitals also figured out how to preserve bed space and protective gear, calling off elective surgeries in case there was ever a surge in COVID patients.  

To this point, that hasn’t happened. Only 92 people have needed emergency care in Spokane County. 

Now, elective surgeries are underway again, and hospitals are tracking any future PPE gear they may need for those surgeries. 

“We are in great shape around capacity for the hospitals, both Sacred Heart and Holy Family,” said Susan Stacy, chief operating officer. 

The hallways of Spokane’s hospitals have been relatively quiet over the last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, health officials think that will continue through the fall, even when flu season returns.” 

“I think even if we saw a significant surge that we’re in a position where we could deal with that in our community,” said Getz. 

Flu vaccinations usually start around October, and the virus usually lingers from November up until March. 

It’s still not known if COVID-19 will be seasonal like that. 

If it is, then it could be critical for students to be out of school for the semester by Thanksgiving break. 

“When school goes out for Christmas break, your flu cases get lower in that time,” said Getz. 

In the end, it’ll come back to infection prevention- something we’ve learned a lot about in the last few months. 

“All caregivers, all the public wearing a mask doesn’t protect you as a person, but it protects others because there are asymptomatic patients out there,” said Stacy. 

This likely won’t be the last pandemic we face. And when life returns to normal, it likely won’t be the normal we’re used to. 

But, the lessons we all learned in the last few months will serve us well in the future.

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