Spokane County struggling to contain COVID-19 ahead of 4th of July Weekend

SPOKANE, Wash. — Fourth of July is on the horizon and health officials in Spokane County are worried about COVID-19 spreading even more during the holiday.

The virus is spreading rapidly in the county with 540 people testing positive for COVID-19 in just the last 14 days. Health officials said it’s on the community to turn that health data around, or else local hospitals will soon become overwhelmed.

“I anticipate we are going to see double our hospitalizations in the next two weeks,” Dr. Dan Getz of Providence Health said.

He said hospitals in Spokane are prepared to handle a surge right now, but that could quickly change because of the amount of non-covid patients who also need emergency care. The recovery for those with COVID-19 is also not a short one.

“Our average length of stay has exceeded two weeks, and we’ve seen our longest length of stay in the ICU well over 30 days,” Getz said.

The “R” number is another key data point which explains how this virus is spreading in the community.

Spokane County’s “R” number is currently 1.5, according to Getz; which means each person infected with COVID-19 is spreading the virus to at least one and a half more people on average. That creates a domino effect of infections as each case essentially infects 1.5 people. The goal is for that “R” number to be below 1.

The virus is infecting 20-39 year olds more than anyone else in Spokane—in fact, the median age of Spokane County’s last 100 reported cases is 31 years-old.

Dr. Bob Lutz said that median age was 54 years-old just a couple weeks ago.

That’s also why people under 40 make up 796 of Spokane County’s 1,416 confirmed cases as of July 1.

“It’s just a matter of time before those people infect somebody who has significant illness that’s gonna have a hard time with this disease,” Getz said.

Health officials said many of those new infections are coming from work places and large gatherings at bars or restaurants. That’s why concern is rising over the virus spreading even more during 4th of July weekend.

“If you really want to be a patriot, the most patriotic thing you can do right now is wear a mask and protect everyone in the community,” Getz said.