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Community spread of COVID-19 continues in Idaho Panhandle, with more deaths reported

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 11, 2020

The Spokane Regional Health District building. There were 50 new coronavirus cases reported in the county on Tuesday.  (JESSE TINSLEY/Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Regional Health District building. There were 50 new coronavirus cases reported in the county on Tuesday. (JESSE TINSLEY/Spokesman-Review)

COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the five most northern counties in Idaho, including Benewah County, which reported its first death due to the virus on Tuesday.

The resident was in his 60s and was hospitalized with the virus, first at Benewah Community Hospital, a critical access hospital, in St. Maries.

“BCH is saddened to hear that one of our community members has passed away from COVID-19,” Chuck Lloyd, CEO at the hospital, said in a news release. “BCH had the honor of caring for this community member for a short period of time before they were transferred to a higher level of care. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time. BCH is committed to ensuring that our community, staff, and healthcare providers remain safe and healthy.”

There have been 21 deaths due to COVID-19 in the Idaho Panhandle, and health district officials there say it is too soon to tell if case counts are beginning to plateau in the area.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 81 new cases for a total of 2,257 cases in the five-county region. The majority of cases in the Idaho Panhandle are in Kootenai County, although both Bonner and Shoshone counties have more than 100 COVID-19 cases recorded in their communities.

Two weeks ago the Panhandle Health District reported that 12.4% of residents tested for COVID-19 had a positive result. There is community spread of the virus in all five counties, said Panhandle Health District spokeswoman Katherine Hoyer.

There are 29 Panhandle residents hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the health district, which does not disclose which hospitals patients are receiving treatment at.

Kootenai Health, the largest hospital in the Panhandle, is treating 27 patients with COVID-19, including five requiring critical care.

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 50 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, for a total of 4,605. No new deaths were reported on Tuesday in Spokane County.

There are 71 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Spokane County hospitals, and 47 of them are county residents.

Spokane County is seeing some positive signs of possible plateauing in the case data, Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz told reporters on Monday.

The most recent incident report from the Institute for Disease Modeling suggests that residents adhering to mask directives as well as falling case counts in certain age groups could be why COVID-19 activity is leveling off locally, although the flattened case count data could “hide increases in the oldest age groups while hospitalizations rise,” the report warns.

Most COVID-19 hospital patients in Spokane are older than 50.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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