Washington seeing “fall surge” of COVID cases, experts urge safe holiday celebrations

SPOKANE, Wash.– The weather is changing and more people are spending time inside; that’s bad news for COVID-19.

That’s also part of the reason why Spokane’s rate of new cases is at a record high–227 cases per 100k people in the last 14 days.

There have been more than 1,300 people who have tested positive for the virus in that span. The message from health experts remains the same: mask up, distance, wash your hands and avoid gatherings.

“All of that stuff still is the only way we can really get a handle on this,” Spokane Regional Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said.

This becomes even more critical as flu season begins and 188 people have already died from COVID-19 in Spokane.

There’s also serious concern surrounding upcoming holidays, like Halloween, Thanksgiving and even Christmas.

“I would strongly discourage people inviting their cousins, their brothers and sisters, and aunts, and uncles and grandparents from afar,” Lutz said.

Spokane’s hospitals have managed capacity just fine during this surge in cases since Labor Day. The hospitals in the county have had about 60 percent of beds filled for months now.

There is concern about that changing as more infections rise with the colder weather and increased indoor activity.

The CDC also said about 40-45 percent of Americans have a condition that puts them at risk of COVID-19. We also know about 40 percent of those infected with the virus are not symptomatic.

“So, you truly don’t know who has it, and unknowingly, they can transmit it to anyone,” Lutz said.

It’s not all bad news.

A report from NPR based off two international studies shows COVID-19 may not be spreading as much between kids that are learning in schools.

Dr. Lutz believes that’s the case locally, too.

“We’re not seeing significant spread or the degree of spread we thought we may have seen,” Lutz said. “We are seeing more times than not cases that come into the school, more so than transmission within the school.”

The only consistent source of outbreaks in Spokane to this point has been from long-term care facilities, according to Lutz.

People in those facilities make up at least 119 of Spokane’s 188 deaths.

Other than that, cases are popping up in workplaces, colleges, retail stores and gatherings.