SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane County Department of Emergency Management held a press conference Tuesday morning to update citizens on Governor Jay Inslee’s “stay home, stay healthy” order related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
During the press conference, Spokane Regional Health District Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said, “We’re not flattening the curve.”
Lutz said we’re not doing enough locally, or even statewide, to prevent the spread of the illness. The new order from the governor will help do just that, he said.
“We incrementally had to increase what we call ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’ to the point where we are right now,” Lutz said. “The hope is that we will be able to do so. And often times, with being able to see that flattening, we have to wait a week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. So, time will tell.”
He said so far, we haven’t been following through with public health recommendations. He mentioned that if we don’t see a flattening of the curve “we could be doing this for a while.”
Lutz was also asked about the cases of coronavirus in Spokane County, that as of Tuesday increased to 33. He said some individuals have been hospitalized but he could not say how many or speak to their conditions.
Food and homelessness concerns
Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward also spoke at Tuesday’s press conference.
The mayor addressed concerns for those who may have a hard time getting access to food and how the city is helping the homeless population.
Woodward said food banks and organizations like Meals on Wheels are making sure people have plenty to eat. She said there’s no concern about a food shortage. Volunteers at local food banks are considered essential under the governor’s order. Woodward wanted to remind those workers that the city still needs them. The mayor also mentioned that the Spokane Public School District recently added three more food pick-up sites for children in need.
Woodward said the city is working with the Spokane Regional Health District and shelter providers to transition shelters to 24/7 operations as quickly as possible. The city will open the first floor of the downtown Spokane Public Library as a shelter by Monday, she said. This will initially provide 100 new beds, then up to 140 beds. The mayor said due to social distancing, local shelters are losing about half of their beds.
Woodward said they are looking at the Spokane County Fairgrounds as an isolation/quarantine space.
“When we assess these buildings, it takes time to do that. We have to think of everything that is involved in staffing, in space, in transportation to get people there,” she said. “It looks like it’s going to work as an isolation/quarantine facility for numerous populations. Those who are homeless, those who are healthy, those who are discharged from the hospital but can’t go home, there are a number of needs there.”