[Updated] Thursday update: Spokane's COVID-19 test result is negative

Editor’s Note: This post was updated Thursday evening, March 5, after new information was released about the test results.

A Spokane community member with ties to Gonzaga University has tested negative for COVID-19, aka coronavirus, the Spokane Regional Health District announced Thursday night.

Even as Grant County had announced a confirmed case as of Wednesday night, the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) still had not heard the results of a sample sent in on Saturday by 5 pm on Thursday, says Kelli Hawkins, public information officer for SRHD.

But by 6:25 pm, the district announced that they’d learned the sample results showed the community member, who has remained in isolation since this weekend, did not have the virus.

At this time, there are no confirmed cases in Spokane County. The risk to the public is low at this time, but Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz is still asking that people: stay home if they feel sick, use good hygiene and avoid touching their face, have contingency plans in case schools close, and evaluate travel plans based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The announcement of the negative result came after multiple days of waiting, when it was unclear why the Spokane sample, sent in on Saturday, had taken so long to get processed. Department of Health officials had said there was no backlog at the state lab.

Shortly after this story was originally posted, the Department of Health responded to earlier questions from the Inlander to say that the lab has, in fact, had something of a backlog.

"After today’s briefing, we found out new information that the state does have a bit of a backlog due to prioritizing tests from the Life Care Facility and delays in getting the UW Virology Lab on board as additional capacity," writes Danielle Koenig, assistant public information officer for DOH, by email. "But now that the UW lab is up and running, we expect to get through the backlog today or tomorrow."

The department does release the numbers of confirmed cases, though. As of Thursday morning, there were 70 confirmed cases in Washington, with 10 deaths. The majority of cases were in King County (51 confirmed cases, 9 deaths) and Snohomish County (18 confirmed cases, 1 death), and one case was in Grant County.

There are still no confirmed cases in Idaho, which has conducted 15 tests (including on one Oregon resident) but had no positive results, according to public health officials there.

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an order Thursday requiring that insurers cover the cost of COVID-19 doctor's visits and testing without requiring a deductible or co-pay through at least May 4.

Gov. Jay Inslee also announced new state and federal funding would be coming in to help with the outbreak. Health care workers and first responders will get time lost payments and coverage for health care treatment from the state if they've got COVID-19 or they're quarantined and can't go to work.

The Department of Labor and Industries is encouraging other employers to keep paying any employees who are forced to stay home in quarantine. 

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...