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Area hospitals share vaccine doses, Providence opens drive-thru testing site in Spokane Valley

It’s all about collaboration thus far in distributing the doses of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines across Washington.

With the state broadening the initial distribution of vaccines to all health care workers, not just frontline workers, hospitals are able to vaccinate more hospital workers, including support staff in hospitals who fix or sanitize rooms, prepare meals or provide other services.

“Hospitals have been discouraged by both the hospital association and the Department of Health to vaccinate staff who are working from home, but if folks are working on a campus and have the possibility of contact with patients or visitors, we would like them to be vaccinated,” Cassie Sauer, chief executive of the Washington State Hospital Association, told reporters Monday.

Distribution of the vaccine has been challenging, largely due to the inconsistency of when doses arrive. Hospital representatives said they’ve been told a shipment was delayed only to receive it two days later, while other providers have set up entire vaccination clinics, only to not receive doses in time. Sauer said a hospital in Olympia was planning a New Year’s Day vaccine clinic, but their doses never arrived. MultiCare in Tacoma offered some of their doses, which were taken down to Olympia on New Year’s Eve to save the clinic.

Health care providers have been told by the state to not waste vaccine doses, leading to some last-minute judgments if there are doses left over. Currently, under state guidance, high-risk health care workers, first responders and residents, as well as staff at long-term care facilities are considered to be in Phase 1A for vaccination. All health care workers are in the second tier of that phase.

Ensuring that everyone in Phase 1A receives the vaccine can be challenging, however, particularly in rural settings where all hospital workers have been vaccinated but there might still be doses left over in a vial that would otherwise go to waste.

Dr. Michael Myint, a physician and executive at MultiCare, said their teams have been directed to look for individuals who are older than 75, or have other risk factors, to use those potentially wasted doses.

“We’ve been trying to make sure anybody that gets the vaccine in these nonwasting scenarios are those individuals at higher risk if they’re not in the 1A group,” Myint told reporters Monday.

As of Monday, the state has not released additional guidance for who will be prioritized next for vaccination.

In Idaho, the Panhandle Health District is expanding vaccine availability to all health care workers, including dentists and dental hygienists this week. The health district is reaching out to dentist’s offices in the Panhandle and plans to set up vaccine clinics in Hayden, Sandpoint, and Kellogg. The vaccine has been offered to hospital and home health care workers as well as long-term care facility residents and staff in the Panhandle, according to the district. Emergency medical teams are also being offered the vaccine there.

Drive-thru COVID testing site opens in Valley

Providence will open a drive-thru testing site Tuesday in Spokane Valley at the Providence Medical Park. The testing does not require an appointment, but insurance information will be collected. The site will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

Dr. Michael Ravelo, medical director of urgent care at Providence, said the site will help make room at urgent care clinics for patients who need to be seen in person, while COVID testing can happen from a person’s vehicle.

Providence will use their labs to run the diagnostics on the PCR tests and turn to external lab partners if they reach capacity, Ravelo said.

There is currently drive-thru testing at the Spokane Arena operated by CHAS, but nothing similar in Spokane Valley.

“I think it will give access to Spokane Valley and neighboring cities were they may not always want to go into the city,” Ravelo said.

Providence is paying for the testing site through its foundation, and testing is still available at Providence urgent care clinics as well.

Coronavirus numbers in the Inland Northwest

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 201 new cases and one death Monday. On New Year’s Day the district recorded a large spike in cases, 669, which was due partially to a data backlog from the state. About 300 of the 669 cases confirmed that day were cases identified earlier in December, and about 200 of them are connected to the outbreak at Airway Heights Corrections Center.

There have been 373 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County. Hospitalizations remain at the same levels they were at two weeks ago, with 20% of ICU beds in the eastern- most counties in the state occupied by COVID-19 patients. There are 133 patients with the virus in Spokane hospitals, and 112 of them are county residents.

The Panhandle Health District reported 545 new cases on Monday, which includes cases confirmed over the weekend. There are 87 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus, and 78 of them are at Kootenai Health, where 18 patients are in critical care.

In the five-county region, 169 residents have died from COVID-19.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories 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.