Spokane County on verge of moving back to Phase 2

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County is just barely meeting the requirements to stay in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.

COVID-19 cases are rising again across the country, Washington state and locally.

“We are at a point that resembles what we saw late September/early October, right before that November through January surge,” Interim Health Director Dr. Frank Velazquez said Tuesday.

The state will evaluate counties and their place in the state’s reopening phase next week. Specific metrics, like average cases per day and hospitalizations, must be met for a county to stay in Phase 3. Otherwise, it means those areas will be moved back to Phase 2.

The state’s Phase 3 requirements (for counties with more than 50,000 people) outline that a county’s number of cases per 100,000 people must be below 200 cases in the last two weeks and fewer than five hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the last seven days. Currently, Spokane is averaging 187 cases per 100,000 people and has had 24 hospitalizations in the past week.

So, where are these cases coming from? Younger people.

Between March 21 and April 3, 12 percent of Spokane County’s new cases were diagnosed in people ages 10-19. Twenty eight percent were in people ages 20-29 and 16 percent were in people ages 30-39.

Most people in the younger demographic are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, but the Spokane Regional Health District’s data show that vaccines are working. In the same time span, there have been just 23 new cases among people older than 70 and four deaths reported in the last week.

Velazquez said the situation comes down to the vaccines outracing infections.

“This is vaccines versus virus right now,” he said.

The state will open up vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older on April 15. The latest data show that 17 percent of Spokane County residents are fully vaccine and 26 percent have received their first dose.

RELATED: All Washingtonians 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID vaccine April 15