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COVID-19

News >  Idaho

Shoshone County needed refrigerated morgue trailer to handle uptick in deaths due to COVID-19

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 4, 2020

This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md., shows Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, orange, isolated from a patient.  (HOGP)
This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md., shows Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, orange, isolated from a patient. (HOGP)

It took a while for COVID-19 to show up in Shoshone County.

It was the last county in the five-county Panhandle Health District to record a case, and the first death attributed to the virus in Shoshone County didn’t occur until July 30. Soon after, however, deaths began to multiply.

One long-term care facility, Mountain Valley at Cascadia, which is located in Kellogg, accounts for 80 COVID-19 cases in the county, according to data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The outbreak at Mountain Valley accounts for 10 of Shoshone County’s 15 deaths due to COVID-19.

Dan Martinsen, Shoshone County emergency manager, coordinated with the Shoshone County coroner to find a way to temporarily store deceased residents in cold storage when the local morgue ran out of space.

Collaborating with a group of coroners in Public Health District 2, which includes Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties, Martinsen was able to use their “cold storage morgue trailer” at no cost to the county, with expenses reimbursed by federal coronavirus aid.

“I went to Lewiston and picked it up and got it set up for cold storage use,” Martinsen wrote in an email. “The coroner and the funeral home have been utilizing the trailer which took a great burden off of them.”

The surge of deaths due to COVID-19 in Shoshone County has tapered, and Shoshone County leaders are in the process of returning the trailer to District 2.

The Panhandle Health District reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and 49 residents in the five-county region have died from the virus. There are currently 349 active cases of the virus in the Panhandle, and seven people are hospitalized.

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 43 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

There are now 5,526 confirmed cases in Spokane County, but the health district estimates that 80% of those cases are “recovered,” meaning they are 28 days beyond their initial illness onset and not in the hospital.

There are 31 patients in Spokane hospitals, and 24 of them are county residents. The health district recorded eight more deaths on Friday, for a total of 136 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County.

Health officials are asking county residents to celebrate Labor Day safely and in small groups.

“Celebrate cautiously,” Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said on Wednesday. “Every holiday we’ve seen significant spikes, and nobody wants that.”

The return of college students to the community also has heightened concerns about the resurgence of COVID-19 in Spokane County.

So far, there are three confirmed and active COVID-19 cases connected to three Gonzaga University students, living on and off campus.

Whitworth University, which will welcome most of its students back over the long weekend, has no current active COVID-19 cases. Both universities are sharing cases on dashboards on their university websites.


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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