RETURN OF THE ‘RONA: COVID-19 cases see spike amidst reopening

(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)

As summers near, and states work to reopen their economies after the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States, the data is both muddled and confusing as to what is exactly happening. Three of the nation’s most populated states – Texas, Florida and California are now reporting record numbers of new COVID-19 cases while hard-hit areas like New York are seeing fewer cases.

By Monday, June 15, there were over 2.1 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States and over 117,000 have been reported as having died from the virus. After a large shut down which experts predict will contract the country’s GDP by 6.5 percent, states have begun the process of opening up businesses and other aspects of life and the results have been mixed.

Eastern Washington is not immune to this dilemma. Since Spokane County moved to Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, there has been 352 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in three weeks. Eastern Washington’s largest county has had 833 people catch the virus and a little more than half have recovered while 37 people have died.

Northeast Washington has been spared from these numbers – perhaps due to its low population density – as Stevens, Pend Oreille and Ferry County have only had 19 cases total and one death. These three counties are currently in Phase 3 of Washington’s re-opening plan.

Fears of a “second wave” have caused the stock market to lose thousands of points in value in the past few days, while some experts point out the first wave of the virus never stopped but rather has just plateaued. Deaths have dropped dramatically since a peak of over 2,600 deaths a day in April. Still last week, 5,431 Americans were reported to have lost their life to the COVID-19 virus. New York, which has experienced over 30,000 COVID-19 deaths, has seen incredible drops in cases and deaths which has since brought the national number down dramatically as well.

On Sunday, the country reported just 331 deaths from the virus, the lowest number in months.

Still virus outbreaks continue in areas across the country. Utah and Oregon halted their state reopening plans because of coronavirus spikes. In Texas, hospitalizations reached a new high and now has a total number of COVID-19 cases over 83,000. Florida has over 71,000 cases and California has 142,000 cases of the virus.

Hotspots of the virus also emerged in South Carolina, Missouri and cities like Houston and Phoenix.

While Eastern Washington is far from the national spotlight, Washington Department of Health released a report on Saturday saying that several areas in Eastern Washington have yet to reach their peak cases and that Yakima, Spokane, Benton and Franklin counties will likely see more cases and deaths in the coming months if not checked by social distancing measures. The reproduction rate of the virus, the DOH said, might be higher in Eastern Washington than it is in Western Washington.