Spokane Regional Health District

Screenshot from Spokane Regional Health District

Our life, post-Covid pandemic, may include vaccinations and masks. It may also become as routine as living with the flu.

Spokane Board of Health hires Francisco Velazquez as permanent health officer

Oct 6, 2021
Courtesy of Spokane Regional Health District

The Spokane Regional Board of Health  has chosen a permanent health officer.

The board, a body of elected officials and appointed community members, voted to offer interim health officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez the position permanently, during a board meeting Wednesday.

Velazquez has served as the interim health officer since last fall and was hired at the recommendation of the district’s administrator Amelia Clark.

Screenshot from Mayo Clinic video

Covid is public enemy number one for the Spokane Regional Health District, but syphilis is also high on its list of concern, especially for newborns. 

The number of confirmed syphilis cases in the county increased from 26 in 2014 to more than 200 in 2018, according to the Spokane Regional Health District.

Spokane Looks To State For Covid Testing Help

Sep 1, 2021
Courtesy of CHAS Health

Spokane’s health district is asking the state Department of Health for help in re-establishing a community-based Covid testing site here.

The county has had high case numbers over the last several weeks. Interim Health Officer Francisco Velazquez says there’s no sign yet that trend is changing. The case surge has led to an increased demand for testing.

Courtesy of Matreshka Deli

The Spokane Regional Health District this week is sponsoring a series of Covid vaccination clinics. Two of them are targeted at non-vaccinated people in the Slavic and Spanish-speaking communities.

Rebecca White/SPR

The Spokane Regional Health District is reporting that 92.7% of the region’s ICU beds are full.

About 7.8% of those ICU beds are confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to an email from the health district Wednesday.

That comes the same day the district reported more than 270 new cases of COVID-19 and 85 hospitalizations.

Rebecca White/SPR

The Center for Disease Control is now recommending everyone, vaccinated or not, wear masks while indoors due to an increase in infections driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Dr. Francisco Velazquez, the Spokane Regional Health District’s interim health officer, said the Delta, as well as other variants, have been detected in Spokane County.


Emergency medical technicians in Spokane County are reaching for Narcan more often to revive people suffering from opioid overdoses. Narcan is the brand name for naloxone. It is often used to bring opioid users back from the brink of death.

The Spokane Fire Department has tracked how often first responders have deployed the drug this year.

Health Officials Doubt Overdose Levels Will Wane Soon

Jul 23, 2021
Courtesy of Drug Enforcement Administration

Spokane public health officials aren’t optimistic that the county’s drug overdose rate is going to decrease anytime soon. But if it does, one unusual factor may have something to do with it.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Public health officials say Spokane County appears to be mirroring the state trend for opioid overdoses.

The Washington Department of Health reported Tuesday that 418 people died from overdoses during the first quarter of 2021. That’s up from 378 during the first quarter last year.

Spokane Regional Health District officials say they also suspect that overdoses are increasing in the county, but they cite a different indicator.

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Health care outreach workers in Spokane say they’re trying new methods to get skeptical non-vaccinated people to get their Covid shots.

Selina Leem from the health district says one strategy that has paid off in Spokane’s Marshallese community is to enlist the support of church leaders.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Washington Board of Health says it will hold a hearing as it decides whether to take action after the removal of former Spokane Regional Health District Health Officer Bob Lutz.

Public Health Officials Turn Spotlight On Mental Health

May 28, 2021
Courtesy Priority Spokane

There are signs that Covid pandemic life is moving closer to what used to be normal.

Dan Barth from Frontier Behavioral Health in Spokane says that became clear to him last weekend at a cafe in Spokane Valley.

Screenshot from Spokane Regional Health District

Spokane County health officials today [Wednesday] urged people to get vaccinated against Covid, as the county trails behind the state average for vaccination.

Health Officials Encourage Youth To Get Vaccinated

May 12, 2021
Spokane Regional Health District

As authorization for children over 12 to get vaccinated against the coronavirus nears, health officials urge families to consider getting the vaccine, and for currently eligible 16 and 17-year-olds who are eligible to get vaccinated now.


Dr. Gretchen LaSalle, a family physician with Multi-Care said during a Health District briefing Wednesday, that children usually have milder cases of COVID, but that can still lead to long-term impacts.


Spokane Regional Health District

A preliminary Washington Board of Health investigation released Tuesday found that Spokane Regional Health District Administrator Amelia Clark likely violated state law when she removed Dr. Bob Lutz from his role as health officer.

Screenshot from Spokane Regional Health District

People in Spokane County are among those breathing sighs of relief now that Governor Jay Inslee has announced a two-week delay in changes to Covid recovery phases.

It means businesses and others won’t have to change what they’ve been doing since the county moved to Phase 3, says Interim Health Officer Francisco Velazquez.

Rebecca White/SPR

Spokane County's interim health officer says the county will likely revert back to more restrictions as both coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

Spokane County has 299 cases and 8.6 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, significantly above the requirements to stay in the state’s current phase of re-opening.

Many NW Providers Bring Back J&J Vaccine As An Option

Apr 27, 2021
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Several public health agencies in Washington and Idaho say they are going back to administering the Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine after getting the go-ahead from the Centers for Disease Control.

Screenshot from Spokane Regional Health District

Spokane County’s chances of staying in Phase 3 of Washington’s coronavirus reopening protocol beyond the first week of May are becoming more tenuous.

Interim Health Officer Francisco Velazquez says the county is failing one of the two metrics state officials consider when evaluating counties’ progress.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Mass vaccination sites and clinics in Washington are now open to the entire adult population, as well as 16- and 17-year-olds.

State health officials say about six million people are eligible to be inoculated. Those who aren’t are 15 years of age or younger, for whom there is not yet a vaccine.

Washington Opens Covid Vaccinations To All Adults Today

Apr 15, 2021
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Washington opens Covid vaccines to all adults, as well as 16- and 17-year-olds, on Thursday. Health providers say they’re bracing for a big rush of people who have waited patiently for their turn.

Screenshot from Spokane Regional Health District

During most of the last week, coronavirus cases in Spokane County have risen back into triple digits, though still much lower than at the peak of the pandemic.

“We had spring breaks. We had Easter, which is also typically a big celebration for a lot of people. And then we had the NCAA Tournament, all of those at the same time, at a time when we were in Phase 3, which means a lot more things are open," said Interim Health Officer Francisco Velazquez.

Courtesy of Washington Department of Health

Washington state health officials plan to announce today [Monday] whether any of the state’s 39 counties will have their Covid phase status changed.

“The good news is that we’re making progress in communities across the state, but there are communities or counties where we are seeing increases that are of concern," said Health Secretary Umair Shah.

Rebecca White/SPR


The Spokane Regional Board of Health is now looking for a permanent new health officer.

During its regular meeting on Thursday the board voted to spend up to $50,000 on a recruitment firm to find qualified candidates.

Rebecca White/SPR

On Wednesday many high-risk workers, people who have medical conditions or are pregnant became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a Spokane Regional Health District briefing Wednesday, Dr. Mark Schemmel, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, urged everyone eligible, especially those who are pregnant, to contact a doctor and get a vaccine. 

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane County has a new coronavirus outbreak at the downtown jail.

The county says a dozen inmates at the downtown facility have tested positive. The jail division has dedicated two floors to quarantine inmates and keep them away from the rest of the jail population for two weeks.

Courtesy of CHAS Health

Many Spokane residents who have been inoculated at the mass Covid vaccination site at the Spokane Area could get their second dose within days.

Kelli Hawkins, the communications manager for the Spokane Regional Health District, said the switch to second doses is a part of a larger Washington State Department of Health push to get people fully vaccinated.

“I do know they have released information about prioritizing second doses for a couple weeks," she said. "That will happen here in Spokane too and our second doses will start taking place next week.”

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane is slowly, but surely making progress on protecting its homeless population from the coronavirus.

Kylie Kingsbury, the homeless outreach coordinator for the Spokane Regional Health District said 184 vaccines had been given at homeless shelters since the end of January.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A Spokane state representative’s bill to make changes to local health districts has passed out of committee in the Washington state House.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli’s bill would require counties, including Spokane, to form comprehensive public health districts.