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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County COVID-19 death toll reaches 200 as soaring cases force change in testing priorities

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 30, 2020

By Arielle Dreher and Maggie Quinlan The Spokesman-Review

Spokane County reached a grim milestone Thursday as the COVID-19 death toll topped 200 in the county since the start of the pandemic.

Four more deaths were recorded, bringing the number of people who have succumbed to the disease to 203.

An average of more than one COVID death per day has been recorded for the past two months, according to Spokane Regional Health District data.

As cases continue to surge, an increased demand for testing means Community Health Association of Spokane clinics throughout the county have had to change their COVID-19 testing protocols. They’re now deprioritizing rapid tests for students and staff at K-12 schools, due to a limited supply of rapid tests.

Just a few weeks ago, CHAS had begun to offer rapid testing to K-12 students and staff.

In Idaho, Kootenai, Boundary and Shoshone counties moved to substantial, or “red,” risk categories as case counts climbed Thursday.

Over the past seven days, Boundary County had an average of more than 57 new COVID-19 cases every day. Kootenai had an average of about 50 and Shoshone had an average of about 40, according to a Panhandle Health news release.

Kootenai Health hospital was at 99% capacity last week, treating 31 patients with COVID-19. As of Thursday, the hospital had 41 patients with the disease. Of those, 13 were in critical care, the release said.

The hospital in Coeur d’Alene has been operating at 90% or higher capacity for two weeks. It has medical staff out due to illness and has not been able to fill open positions for traveling nurses, according to the release.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 128 new cases on Thursday, and there are now 75 deaths from the virus in the five-county region.

There were 62 COVID patients in Spokane County hospitals Thursday, including 46 Spokane County residents, according to SRHD.

The district confirmed 112 new cases on Thursday, and the cumulative number of cases since the start of the pandemic reached 9,720.

CHAS clinics are only testing people with symptoms or confirmed exposure to someone with COVID-19. CHAS has polymerase chain reaction testing, which has a one-to-three-day turnaround time, for people with symptoms and those without symptoms who have been exposed to the virus, but don’t qualify for rapid tests.

Rapid testing is available at certain CHAS clinics for people with symptoms who are health care workers, first responders and residents at congregate facilities, or a person who has had exposure to a person with COVID-19 and also has symptoms.

Specific CHAS clinics and a few Walgreens and Rite Aid locations are the only places to access testing for free in the county, as well as for people who do not have health insurance.

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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