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Spokane Officials Ask For Different Metrics When Evaluating Re-opening Strategies


Elected leaders in Spokane County say they’re looking for specifics as to how they can convince the state to allow more businesses to open soon. Spokane’s mayor says the governor has imposed a strict standard that probably isn’t attainable. Others think he hasn’t yet finalized what he wants from larger counties.

On Tuesday, mayors from several Spokane County towns and cities held a conference call with Governor Jay Inslee. They wanted to know how Spokane County can get to the point where it can reopen its businesses faster than called for in Inslee’s four-phase plan?

“He indicated to us that the only way he would offer a variance to move from one phase of his plan to another sooner than his three-week period would be if there were no new cases in a county in three weeks," said Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, talking to reporters afterward. “It seems a bit unrealistic, to be honest with you.”

Health Officer Bob Lutz agrees, but he thinks there’s a misunderstanding. He said the governor’s no-new-cases-in-three-weeks standard applies only to small counties with few cases.

“There is not a variance that would be available to larger counties, based on that unachievable metric," Lutz said.

County Commissioner Mary Kuney, who was in on the call with the governor, countered with another idea.

“Could we use a different measurement here, such as hospitalizations? Because that’s the big concern. Do the hospitals have capacity? Is there going to be a surge and they have the capacity for that? Could we look at hospitalizations instead of positive tests?” Kuney said.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs also made the case for additional metrics.

“Your confirmed cases has to do with how much you’re testing," Beggs said. "If you increase your testing, which everyone says we should do as a way to surveill incidents of disease and identify people quickly before they spread the disease, you will have more cases. Simply the number of confirmed tests is not the best metric for a place like Spokane.”

Inslee says he and his team will continue to take suggestions from counties that want to re-open earlier and re-evaluate.