Spokane County health officer gives tips for gathering safely as holiday season arrives

<p><p>As the COVID rate continues to decline in Spokane County, Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez is hopeful that Thanksgiving will not result in those trends reversing.</p></p><p><p>Even after Halloween, the county did not see an increase in cases, and the county’s vaccination rate has continued to inch up since then.</p></p><p><p>As of Monday, 56% of Spokane County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.</p></p><p><p>This holiday season will benefit from the availability of childhood vaccines, as well as booster doses for fully vaccinated adults.</p></p><p><p>Still, Velázquez encouraged people to keep gatherings small, improve ventilation in homes by opening windows and to get a COVID-19 test if you have any symptoms at all before gathering.</p></p><p><p>He said gatherings with fully vaccinated attendees are less risky than gatherings with those who are not fully vaccinated. COVID-19 spreads very effectively indoors.</p></p><p><p>He advised unvaccinated people attending gatherings to wear masks and keep their distance.</p></p><p><p>“There’s high risk of transmission for all indoors, but an even higher risk for those who aren’t immunized,” Velázquez said on Wednesday.</p></p><p><p>Local hospitalizations for COVID-19 have plateaued, although hospitals remain at or above 90% capacity.</p></p><p><p>Staffing concerns persist, and as delayed procedures are rescheduled, Velázquez said local hospitals will be catching up on these procedures well into 2022.</p></p><p><h3>Here’s a look at local numbers</h3></p><p><p>Health agencies did not report new numbers on Thursday or Friday because of the Thanksgiving holiday.</p></p><p><p>The Spokane Regional Health District reported 69 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and no additional deaths.</p></p><p><p>There are 81 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane .</p></p><p><p>The Panhandle Health District reported 106 new COVID-19 cases and has an additional 1,098 backlogged cases.</p></p><p><p>There are 81 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.</p></p>