An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Spokane Health Board Formally Appoints Interim Officer, Hears Of Geiger Outbreak

Screenshot from Spokane Regional Health District

The Spokane County Board of Health today [Thursday] unanimously appointed Dr. Frank Velazquez as the interim health officer.

Velazquez was chosen about four weeks ago to fill in after the former health officer, Bob Lutz, was fired. Velazquez has agreed to stay on the job until a permanent replacement can be found.

Meanwhile, Velazquez and his team, including Lyndia Wilson, were asked by board members how much of the new Covid vaccine will be coming to Spokane County. State health officials say they expect to receive about 62,000 doses as early as next week and another 200,000 by the end of the year.

“I haven’t heard the number for Spokane yet. I do understand there are about 500,000 health care workers. That 262,000 isn’t going to go very far,” Wilson said.

Velazquez says the district will distribute the vaccine it receives according to the state’s priorities, which includes health care workers and people in long-term care facilities getting first dibs.

He warned in a media briefing on Wednesday that the vaccine will be a start toward controlling the virus, but only a start, because of Covid’s unpredictability.

“Remember initially there was some thought that it would follow the respiratory viruses and go down in the summer and then come back in the fall and winter. It didn’t do that. It just kept going," Velazquez said. "So what I mean by that is we will have the vaccine, which will be a great tool, but there’s still a need to be somewhat cautious going forward until we really understand the full extent of the life cycle of this particular agent.”

The health board also learned of a Covid outbreak at the Geiger Corrections Center. County spokesman Jared Webley said six corrections officers tested positive. He said five or six inmates have also tested positive and been isolated in the same unit. He said the sheriff’s department has been trying to identify the source of the infections. He says there has apparently been no spread between staff and inmates.