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Coronavirus updates for Spokane County from March 30-31

Find developments on the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state and Spokane County as we work together to separate facts from fear.

Key Facts: 

  • 195 coronavirus deaths among at least 4,896 overall cases in Washington.
  • 65,462 individuals have been tested, 7.5% of those tests were positive.
  •  At least 145 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Spokane County; 22 are hospitalized and four have died. 
  • An employee at the Spokane Veterans Home has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Track the statewide outbreak with this map of Washington counties.

Read previous daily coronavirus updates from March 27-29 

Tuesday, March 31

4:20 p.m. 

The Spokane Regional Health District (SPHD) confirmed 145 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Spokane County, with four related deaths.

2:47 p.m.

Dr. Kathy Lofy, the State Health Officer of Washington State Department of Health said that COVID-19 is still on the rise in Washington, but social distancing efforts seem to be having an effect on blunting the state's coronavirus outbreak.

"COVID-19 appears to be increasing in our state, but it doesn’t appear to be spreading exponentially in our state," Lofy said."We believe our social distancing measures are having some impact." 

But Lofy warned that social distancing measures still had to continue to be effective, even though it is "not easy." While early cases were concentrated in the Puget Sound metro area, that is no longer the case. 

"COVID activity was focused on King and Snohomish Counties, but we are now detecting COVID-19 all over the state," Lofy said.

Lofy said according to a University of Washington data center model, the peak of coronavirus cases will be on April 19.

Lofy said the number of new cases per day went from 200-250 during March 21-24 to 500-600 during March 26-28. She said most of this was due to a doubling of the number of people that were tested. 

The percentage of tests per that are positive is a better indicator of the spread of the virus, Lofy said. In mid-March it was 6 or 7% and over the past few days it has been between 8 and 9%.

Lofy said data on hospitalizations is severely limited because it's only on "COVID-like symptoms" which might include people who just have a cold or flu and might exclude people with milder symptoms. 

She said the data that is available shows the increase in COVID-19, though ongoing, is gradual and not exponential. 

1:53 p.m.

The Washington Department of Health made a statement regarding the reporting of coronavirus cases in the state. 

According to a statement from the department, the Washington Disease Reporting System is used to report notifiable conditions and would normally only report positive results.

The system is now tracking negative results for coronavirus and the volume is overwhelming the tool, according to department officials. Officials are working with the vendor to increase its capacity.  

Possible solutions include:

  • A separate reporting tool for negative results (roughly 93% of the data at this time).
  • Automating deduplication work performed manually each day. One day last week, more than 2,000 duplicate results were removed to ensure accurate, reliable numbers.

As of Tuesday, they could not provide an estimate for the next release of numbers. 

11:40 a.m.

An employee at the Spokane Veterans Home has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The employee is self-quarantining at home. The employee was tested on March 23 and had no known contact with anyone who had tested positive for coronavirus. When 72 hours had passed without symptoms, the employee returned o work on March 27 and a partial shift on March 30. 

According to a letter sent to families, additional environmental cleaning is taking place in parts of the building where the staff member worked. 

11 a.m.

The Bureau of Land Management has closed some public lands to help limit the spread of COVID-19, including the Yakima River, Liberty Recreation Site and Chopaka Lake Campground.

9:41 a.m.

The drive-thru test site for COVID-19 at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds will be closed through at least Wednesday due to weather, according to Kelli Hawkins with the Spokane Regional Health District.

Hawkins said people will have to go through their individual doctor's or nurse's hotline to set up testing. They will then go through the list of questions about their symptoms to determine if they need a test done.

Hawkins said health leaders are expecting to open a more secure structure on Thursday. It may be at the fairgrounds, but they are considering other locations.  

5 a.m.

Public health officials and researchers say that social distancing appears to be helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Seattle area, where many of the first U.S. deaths occurred.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said that the public still needs to be prepared for the state's current two-week stay-at-home order to be extended. Inslee issued a stay-at-home order last week that is in effect through April 6, and ordered all non-essential businesses to close through at least April 8.

The latest orders expanded previous actions taken by Inslee that ordered the statewide closure of bars, dine-in restaurants, and entertainment and recreation facilities and banned large gatherings.

Monday, March 30

4:42 p.m.

The Washington Department of Licensing is temporarily closing all driver licensing lobbies starting March 31, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

All appointments are being cancelled and no appointments will be made going forward.

People are being urged to renew their licenses, identification cards, or vehicle registration online. 

4:34 p.m. 

Leaders with the Spokane Regional Health District said there are at least 133 cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Spokane County, with four COVID-19-related deaths. 

The health district said data is tentative and subject to change, as the Washington Department of Health is having technical difficulties with its sytem. Actual case numbers are likely higher than what is reported here.  

The state Department of Health is reporting 136 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Spokane County.

Find more information from the state Department of Health here 

2 p.m.

In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl and other officials spoke about the enforcement of Inslee's "stay home" order.

Inslee said that the state will take action against businesses who are violating the order through fines or revoking business licenses if needed. Ferguson will also file civil or criminal charges if necessary, but Inslee said "taking people to court is the last thing that will be considered."

Inslee announced a new website for people to report businesses that are in violation of the stay-at-home order. The site will be available through the state's coronavirus response site at coronavirus.wa.gov

Read more about how to report a business here

Ferguson said his office has received complaints that landlords are being "creative" in finding ways to evict people, despite the moratorium on evictions due to failure to pay rent. 

The Washington State Patrol said citations can be issued for failing to follow the order and arrests can be made as a last resort.

Inslee said its likely that additional measures will be taken in regards to the stay home order. He also said its unknown when the stay home order will end.

When asked about the strain on the health care system, Inslee said he expects surge capacity to be needed in every area of the state. 

"We think, over time, that our hospital system is going to be stretched all across the state of Washington. We want to be prepared for the expansion of our hospital system," Inslee said.

12:46 p.m.

Both the donation collection and drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds are closed for the day on Monday due to strong winds and safety issues.

Similar weather on Tuesday may impact operational hours. 

10:30 a.m.: Epidemic curve in eastern Washington is in 'steeply accelerating phase'

Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz expressed 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.

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

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

As of Monday, at least 136 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Spokane County, significantly more cases than 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.

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

10:30 a.m.: Property tax deadline extended to June 15

Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner announced that a property tax due date extension will be granted to taxpayers experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The regular April 30, 2020, deadline will be extended to June 15 for first half property tax payments in Spokane County.

Taxpayers financially able to make their regular property tax payments are urged to do so by April 30th to support essential local government services reliant on property tax revenue.

The extension does not apply to prior year delinquent taxes or intermediaries, including mortgage loan service companies.    

9:52 a.m.

Two employees with Samaritan Healthcare in Moses Lake have tested positive for COVID-19. Both are recovering at home and remain in isolation. 

In early March, Samaritan Healthcare strengthened all personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols, including having patient care members wear masks at all times. Due to the enhanced patient safety precautions, Samaritan Healthcare and Grant County Health District officials believe there is minimal patient risk at this time.

On Thursday, March 19, Samaritan Healthcare began daily employee wellness checks at Samaritan clinics, and extended to twice daily wellness checks on all campuses as of Monday, March 23. The daily wellness checkpoints require all staff, physicians, vendors, and visitors to undergo a brief COVID-19 symptom screening and temperature check. I

If the individual does not pass the initial screenings, they are sent to the Respiratory Virus Evaluation Center (RVEC) for further evaluation. 

5:05 a.m.

The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in the same time slot scheduled for this year's games. Tokyo organizers said Monday the opening ceremony will take place on July 23, 2021 — almost exactly one year after the games were due to start this year.

Last week, the IOC and Japanese organizers postponed the Olympics until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

4:50 a.m.

Washington schools have been closed since mid-March and will remain closed until at least April 24.

While most Washington school districts have already begun engaging students and families in at-home learning of some sort, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction expects educational services for all students to start by Monday, March 30.

Some educators are waiting on districts for guidelines on how to proceed with remote teaching.

4:35 a.m.

There are 143,055 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 4:35 a.m. PDT Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 2,500 people in the U.S. have died and 4,865 have recovered.

Worldwide, at least 735,560 have been infected with more than 34,600 deaths and more than 156,000 recovered.

4:15 a.m.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorizations (EUA) for two anti-malarial drugs on coronavirus patients which President Donald Trump has touted as potential game-changers. The drugs have yet to be approved by the FDA as treatments for COVID-19 and are undergoing clinical trials.

RELATED: FDA authorizes emergency use of anti-malarial drugs touted by Trump on COVID-19 patients

The EUA allows hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be given to hospitalized teen and adult patients if a clinical trial is not available to them, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Patients will be given the option of whether to take the drugs.

HHS said it has accepted 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate from Sandoz and 1 million doses of chloroquine phosphate from Bayer to add to the Strategic National Stockpile.

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