SPOKANE, Wash. — Coronavirus cases continue to climb in Spokane County, which has left many people wondering if the county could move backward in the reopening process.
The Spokane Regional Health District is reporting 998 coronavirus cases on Monday, June 22. That is an increase of 22 from Sunday, and 62 new cases since Friday.
Community spread accounts for 40% of new coronavirus cases in Spokane County, rather than contact tracing, health officials said on Monday.
Local leaders, including the Spokane County Board of Commissioners and Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, have been pushing for Spokane County to enter into Phase 3. But county health officer Dr. Bob Lutz and other officials say they do not support the move if cases continue to increase.
“We’re definitely not going into Phase 3 in the foreseeable future," Lutz said during a press conference last week.
In a statement released on Friday, Providence Health expressed support for the health district's decision to remain in Phase 2.
"The data shows us that COVID cases are rising, not only due to increased testing capability, but also through community spread," the statement reads in part. "While we have capacity at our hospitals, we do not support starting the process to move into Phase 3 reopening because it has the potential to put undue stress on our health care system and put a greater number of individuals at risk."
Providence leaders encouraged people to continue wearing masks and practice physical distancing.
Could Spokane County move back to Phase 1?
It's been a question on the minds of many: Could we move backward in Washington state's reopening process?
It's possible, but local health officials have said they believe it's unlikely.
The question received some renewed attention on Friday when Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted, "But know this - I will not hesitate to freeze, or even move counties backward if needed. Help prevent that. Wear a mask."
A spokesperson for state Secretary of Health John Wiesman said a freeze or move backyard in reopening is a possibility for any jurisdiction in the state.
In variance approval letters sent by Wiesman to counties, he writes, "I may revoke this variance if circumstances change within your jurisdiction, such as significant community transmission, no or minimal access to COVID-19 testing, inadequate surge capacity in the hospital, inadequate PPE supplies, inadequate case and contact investigations, inadequate isolation or quarantine facilities, or other conditions warranting significant concern."
The letter adds that it is Wiesman's intent to discuss his concerns with counties prior to taking such action, but he does reserve the right to immediately revoke variance.
"The Governor also retains the right to re-impose restrictions upon your jurisdiction under his authority," the letter reads.
Though the county has seen a significant increase in cases since Memorial Day weekend, health district spokesperson Kelli Hawkins said there has been no indication from the state that Spokane will move back to Phase 1.
Lutz also echoed that sentiment last week, saying that he thinks a move backward is unlikely.