Spokane Co. Commissioners ask health officer to apply for phase 3 despite not meeting criteria

SPOKANE CO., Wash. — The Spokane County Board of Commissioners sent a letter to the County Health Officer on Wednesday asking that he begin the application to advance to phase 3 despite a rise in cases and hospitalizations.

The letter comes just hours after Dr. Bob Lutz said the county was “not close” to being ready to advance to the next phase of the state’s reopening plan.

The Spokane Regional Health District told 4 News Now that the letter did not change his mind about that.

“My trends are going the wrong direction,” Lutz said during a press conference.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday morning, 18 more people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Spokane County, meaning there have been 877 total confirmed cases. The county has seen several double-digit daily case increases over the past few weeks.

The county’s phase and risk assessment shows it is not meeting the goal of three of the five required criteria needed to advance to the next phase.

The county has yet to meet the following: rate per 100,000 of newly diagnosed cases during the prior two weeks, number of individuals tested for each new case during the prior week and percent of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 during the past week.

Phase and risk assessment 6-17

The county is, however, meeting the the percentage of licensed beds occupied by patients and by COVID-19 cases.

Lutz said he wants to see a couple of weeks with lower cases and lower hospitalizations.

The letter from the county commissioners asks that Lutz take “immediate action to protect not only the health and safety of Spokane County residents, but also the health of our region’s economy.”

The letter can be read in full below:

Dr. Lutz SRHD Health Officer Re Phase 3 Letter by Erin Robinson on Scribd

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward issued the following statement:

“We anticipated an increase in new positive cases when we moved into Phase 2. As part of that move, testing volume increased and criteria for testing was relaxed to include testing of asymptotic people who have been identified through contact tracing.

Those efforts have allowed the health district to largely contain the new cases to isolated outbreaks with to date only anecdotal evidence of some community spread. The system is working the way it was developed.

As long as the community continues to respect physical distancing requirements and other social etiquettes and wears a mask when in public, we would be comfortable with advancing to Phase 3. Our economic health continues to be at risk and our community has demonstrated a commitment to respecting public health.”

Still, it’s up to the health officer to create that application.

“We’re not going anywhere unless we start to see improvements in our overall disease picture across the county,” Dr. Lutz said.

In order to advance to the next phase, the application must be approved by the governor’s office and the state health secretary.

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