WA Dept. of Health resolving backlog that caused spike in COVID case count

SPOKANE, Wash. — We’ve learned a backlog in COVID-19 cases is having a big impact in Pierce, King and Spokane counties.

The Washington State Department of Health tells us 22,000 cases, both positive and negative, spanning back to December 2020 were not processed until recently.

Out of those cases, 3,500 were identified as positive.

Spokane Regional Health District Spokesperson Kelli Hawkins says 592 of these cases since May 20 have affected the numbers on SRHD’s COVID-19 dashboard this past week, leading to what appears to be a spike in cases in May.

“Our case counts give us an indication that we should continue to follow public health guidance, get vaccinated, and help others get their vaccine,” said Hawkins.  “There are many of us who still need to be vaccinated in order for our community to reach an adequate vaccination level. By increasing vaccinations in our community, we will reduce the number of COVID-19 cases, protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and return to a more normal life.”

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) tells us this backlog is because of a miscommunication between their agency and a new lab back in December.

Test results from this particular lab were not processed, but DOH says the problem has been fixed.

“What we saw happen with this is not something we’d seen happen before. So it’s always a learning process for us and now that we know this particular type of issue can show up, we’ll keep an eye out for it,” DOH Epidemiologist Juliana Grant told 4 News Now.

Local health districts, including Spokane Regional Health District, were notified of this error last week.

As of Thursday, May 27, Grant says the state has processed backlogged cases through February 1st and they hope to finish the remaining cases by this week.

“This is a large backlog of cases to add to the system, but surveillance data are constantly changing and being updated,” said Grant.  “It is not uncommon to receive updated or new information about older cases, sometimes even a year later. Public health decisions are always made with the best available data at the time.”