Health officials reported 30 new cases of COVID-19 in Spokane County on Friday, the highest daily count of new cases reported since the pandemic began.
It’s the second time this week the county has reported a new daily high in cases.
Many of the new cases are in younger people. More than 100 county residents in their 20s have gotten COVID-19. This mirrors a statewide trend in which younger people are starting to test positive for the virus at higher rates.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate by age,” Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz told reporters Friday.
The new cases bring the past week’s total to more than 130 just as the county entered Phase 2 of reopening the economy.
County officials also confirmed Friday the first death from COVID-19 this week, of a man in his 50s. So far, 32 people have died in Spokane County from COVID-19.
Lutz attributes the recent spike in cases not only to an outbreak at a local pasta factory, but also to clusters of cases with entire households contracting the virus.
Increased testing has also led to an uptick in confirmed cases, he said. At the fairgrounds site, 265 people have been tested this week alone, not counting all the testing happening from health care providers in the region.
Whether the move to Phase 2 is partly to blame for the higher case counts remains to be seen.
“It’s possible,” Lutz said. “It’s kind of early on. We look at the fact that the median onset of symptoms from time of infection is five to 14 days, so if people got out and about early last week, it’s possible.”
The next couple weeks will be a good barometer for measuring whether the move to Phase 2 leads to an increase in cases, he said. Lutz noted that he is concerned that community members are not taking adequate precautions by wearing masks in public places and physically distancing.
“What I see in the community worries me,” he said. “I’ve seen more traffic, more people out and about. I see a lot of people not practicing physical distancing.”
The Department of Health could rescind the variance it granted Spokane County to advance to Phase 2. Lutz said those conversations would likely be collaborative, although criteria for being pushed back have not been determined.
Earlier this week, state Health Secretary John Wiesman said evidence of community transmission and spread with no clear link to an outbreak or another case would be cause for concern.
“We would be concerned if we can’t start making those connections of who they were in contact with,” Wiesman told reporters Tuesday.
Of the 30 cases confirmed on Friday, Lutz said 20 of them are associated with other known cases. The Spokane Regional Health District asked the state Department of Health for support to conduct contact tracing, due to the high number of cases.
Since the start of the pandemic, 570 Spokane County residents have tested positive for the coronavirus.
As of Friday, the Spokane Regional Health District said 60.5% of people in Spokane County who tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered since the start of the pandemic.
This story is developing.