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News >  Spokane

Canceled fundraisers, self-quarantines and fist bumps in church: Coronavirus fears disrupt life in Spokane

UPDATED: Tue., March 3, 2020

Rows of hand sanitizer are seen empty at a Walgreens in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Fear of the novel coronavirus has led people to stock up on hand sanitizer, leaving store shelves empty and online retailers with sky-high prices set by those trying to profit from the rush. (John Roark / AP)
Rows of hand sanitizer are seen empty at a Walgreens in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Fear of the novel coronavirus has led people to stock up on hand sanitizer, leaving store shelves empty and online retailers with sky-high prices set by those trying to profit from the rush. (John Roark / AP)

Events in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene are being changed, canceled and postponed due to concerns about the novel coronavirus.

Two local organizations will not host fundraisers as planned, and a filmmaker has canceled a visit to Coeur d’Alene over fears of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, which has killed nine people in Western Washington.

Others, meanwhile, have made adjustments to their daily lives to avoid catching or spreading the virus.


Citing an “abundance of caution,” the MultiCare Inland Northwest Foundation announced Tuesday it has canceled its second annual Heart Strings acoustic benefit concert, which was scheduled to take place Thursday evening at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.

“While precautionary, we feel like this is in the best interest of the community,” Carolyn Kadyk, the foundation’s executive director, said in a statement. “We would like to extend our heartfelt apology to the thousands in our community who purchased tickets and have made this such a special annual event.”

The foundation is a fundraising arm of the MultiCare Health System, which runs Deaconess and Valley hospitals and the local network of Rockwood Clinics. The cancellation of the concert follows a decision by the hospital chain to suspend gatherings of 100 people or more and limit “nonessential” air travel while the virus spreads.

There are no plans to reschedule the concert, which was to feature country musicians Deana Carter, Wade Hayes, Craig Campbell and Bryan White. MultiCare said everyone who purchased tickets will receive refunds, and sponsorship money will be returned.

Alison Highberger, a spokeswoman for the Fox Theater and the Spokane Symphony, said in an email the venue has no plans to cancel other events.


Also Tuesday, the Dishman Hills Conservancy, which maintains the Dishman Hills Natural Area in Spokane Valley, announced it will postpone its annual Celebration Dinner, a fundraiser that was scheduled to take place April 2 at the Spokane Club.

“We believe it is best to be cautious, and that this decision is in the best interest of protecting public health,” the nonprofit said in an announcement.

The conservancy has not rescheduled the dinner, but outreach coordinator Isobel Smith said the event will take place during the summer months, when the virus might be less likely to spread.

Tickets already purchased will be valid at the rescheduled event, though the conservancy also is offering refunds.

Last year, Smith said, the dinner drew more than 180 attendees.

“It’s one of our biggest fundraisers of the year,” she said.

Not coming

On Monday, Seattle filmmaker Mark Titus announced he will not attend a March 13 screening of his new documentary, “The Wild,” at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.

The library said Titus “is curtailing all travel due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus,” but organizers might arrange for him to speak and answer questions via video feed.

“The Wild” documents efforts to protect salmon and people from the construction of a massive gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The screening is sponsored by the Coeur d’Alene Public Library Foundation and the Kootenai Environmental Alliance.


Two faculty members at Spokane Community College quarantined themselves at home over the weekend after coming into contact with a King County resident who was being monitored for COVID-19.

Lorraine Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Community Colleges of Spokane, confirmed the faculty members took that precautionary step and did not show up to work on Monday. They returned to teach classes on Tuesday, however, after the King County resident tested negative for the virus.


At least one local church has changed how its pastors give Holy Communion.

The Rev. Geoff Helton said pastors at Audubon Park United Methodist Church have traditionally performed the rite by tearing off pieces of bread and handing them to churchgoers, who dipped them in a communal chalice of grape juice.

Now they’re modifying the ritual to avoid transmitting the coronavirus. Helton said pastors will still tear off pieces of bread – “after thoroughly sanitizing their hands,” he emphasized – but instead of a communal chalice, churchgoers will be given their own small cups.

Helton said he’s also sharing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, encouraging congregants to stay home and listen to sermons online if they feel sick, and advising them not to shake hands with one another. Instead, churchgoers should greet one another with waves or fist bumps, he said.

A spokesman for Spokane’s Catholic diocese said Bishop Thomas Daly planned to meet with health experts and issue coronavirus guidelines for parishioners on Wednesday.


Coronavirus fears have disrupted other organizations and events across the region.

The Colville School District was expected to remain closed Wednesday pending test results for an individual who was being monitored for COVID-19. The district, which closed on Monday, said it hired two companies to disinfect its school facilities.

The Wildhorse Resort and Casino near Pendleton, Oregon, closed for sanitation Monday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which owns the casino, canceled all community events on the reservation through Saturday and closed other facilities, including a school, a day care and a senior center, the Tri-City Herald reported.

In Seattle, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society canceled a Firefighter Stairclimb fundraiser that was scheduled to take place Sunday, and the Washington State Democrats postponed their annual Warren G. Magnuson Awards Dinner, scheduled for Saturday.

In a statement announcing the decision, the Democrats urged people to rely on reputable sources, including local health officials, for accurate information about the coronavirus.

“This is a time to believe in our scientists and medical personnel working hard to keep us all safe and take personal responsibility for preventing the spread of not just the coronavirus itself, but also false information about the disease,” the party said.

Spokesman-Review staff writer Azaria Podplesky contributed to this story.

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