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Curve is steeply accelerating in eastern Washington, Spokane Co. Health Officer says

Dr. Bob Lutz estimates that COVID-19 cases could peak in late April and even into May for Spokane County.

SPOKANE, Wash. — As more COVID-19 cases are confirmed in Washington every day, Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz is expressing concerns about the spread of the disease on the east side of the state specifically. 

“Whereas we are seeing less disease in Puget Sound, we are seeing our numbers increase pretty worrisomely on the east side,” Lutz said during a media briefing on Monday.

Lutz explained that the epidemiological curve is in what he called its “steeply accelerating phase” in eastern Washington as it begins to flatten statewide.

“The pandemic has hit eastern Washington more slowly but it’s impacting us nevertheless,” Lutz said, adding that numbers in eastern Washington reflect infection from two weeks ago.

How long could infections persist in Spokane County? The short answer: we need to prepare for COVID-19 to be with us for a while, according to Lutz.

Lutz estimated that cases of COVID-19 could peak in late April or even into May for Spokane County. He added that we realistically need to practice social distancing and take other precautions to prevent its spread for the next one to two months.

“The expectation is that we will not only see more cases, but more hospitalizations and more fatalities,” Lutz added.

After a conversation with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and other state leaders over the weekend, Lutz said it is “very likely” that people will see more recommendations and guidelines coming out to extend the statewide “stay-at-home” order beyond its current time period.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee issues stay-at-home order for Washington residents

At least 136 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Spokane County as of Monday —  a significant increase in compared to the same time last week. The increase in confirmed cases could be in part due to an increase in testing, Lutz said. 

Twenty-two people have been hospitalized and four people have died.

“The majority of people who are succumbing to COVID-19 are greater than 60, but we are seeing individuals in the younger age groups,” Lutz said, adding that at least some of the patients who died did not have underlying health conditions.

“We know that age in and of itself is a risk factor,” he added.

About 6,000 tests for COVID-19 are being performed each day statewide, Lutz said. In Spokane County, more than 3,700 tests have been performed to date, with just over 3% of those tests coming back positive.

As of Friday, the state Department of Health had 3,000 tests kits available. Lutz said he and other health officials statewide hope that more will arrive.

RELATED: Washington needs more coronavirus test supplies, Gov. Inslee says

Gov. Jay Inslee also addressed what he called "disturbing news" about COVID-19 cases in other areas of Washington state during a media briefing on Monday. He specifically addressed "disturbing numbers" of positive tests. 

Nineteen percent of tests have come back positive in Adams County, along with 16% in Benton County and 15% in Franklin County, Inslee said. He added that this is two to three times higher than previous weeks. 

A lack of sufficient personal protective equipment is also posing problems nationwide, including in Spokane County.

“We do not have sufficient PPE to really provide adequate resupply to organizations,” Lutz said on Monday.

Washington received a large allocation of equipment from the federal government over the weekend, including 500 out of 1,000 ventilators requested, Lutz said. He did not have specifics about the amount of equipment dedicated to Spokane County, but said the area could receive more as the disease continues to spread.

Lutz added that hospitals in the Spokane area are looking to western Washington to prepare for a possible surge in cases.

RELATED: No strain on Spokane hospitals due to COVID-19, but preps for possible surge underway

RELATED: ‘This is going to be a long haul’: Batch of protective equipment meets only some of Washington's need

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