Spokane County’s rise in cases not from increase in testing, but from increased transmission

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Nyasia Camara, medical assistant, checks in a person for a COVID-19 test at the drive-thru testing site at Mercy Health Anderson Hospital, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. You must have an ID. They're open from 8am - 1pm and do about 70 tests each day. Over 5,000 deaths in Ohio have been reported during the pandemic, according to Ohio Department of Health. Testing Political Signs Scenes For Wwlt

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, but it is not from an increase in testing.

Health officer Dr. Bob Lutz said more testing is being done, but that is because more people are displaying symptoms or have been exposed. For the most part, the county has not changed its criteria for testing since March; it is has loosened restrictions just slightly.

In fact, more than 5,500 people were tested for the virus in Spokane last week, and about 10 percent of those tests came back positive.

“It’s a function of just more spread of COVID throughout the community,” Lutz said.

Earlier on in the pandemic, Spokane County had a 3 percent weekly positivity rate. Most counties in Washington are around that rate right now as Spokane is one of the outliers.

More testing should be resulting in a lower positive test rate, and that is not happening so far.

Lutz said cases are popping up in businesses, schools, work places and long-term care facilities. More often that not, those cases are being brought in rather than transmitted there. In other words: private gatherings are causing the spread of COVID-19.

“How do you get people to be resilient in the face of a crisis?” Lutz said.

Spokane County is at peak levels of infection and Lutz attributed this to people not wearing masks and not distancing when gathering in private.

“People’s behaviors are what’s driving this pandemic and keeping us sot of at this plateau area,” Lutz said.

In the past month, eastern Washington has gone from a seven-day rolling average case count of 153 to 208.

“These growing trends have been mirrored in gradual increases in hospital admissions over this same time period,” the State Department of Health’s weekly situation reported stated.

Hospitalizations have increased in Spokane County, but Lutz said the biggest concern is staffing, more so than capacity.

Health officials said the best way to get headed in the right direction is to avoid gatherings when possible and by practicing safe COVID-19 protocols when you are gathering.

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