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COVID-19 hospitalizations at Kootenai Health have increased this month

UPDATED: Fri., May 21, 2021

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

COVID-19 hasn’t left the Idaho Panhandle yet, and local hospitals are seeing an uptick in people with the virus, including younger adults.

Kootenai Health is currently treating 23 COVID-19 patients, including seven who require critical care.

While there are people hospitalized with the virus who are in their 20s all the way through their 80s, the rate of hospitalization for older adults has declined.

“I think one of the big reasons for the decline in patients over 65 is that they were better adopters of vaccination for a whole host of reasons, and it’s protected them,” said Dr. Todd Hoopman, a clinical care physician at Kootenai Health.

The vast majority of COVID-19 patients being treated at the hospital have not been vaccinated, Hoopman said, and he suspects that the circulation of variants is contributing to the spread of the virus and increase in hospitalizations.

A greater percentage of people are testing positive this month than in April, according to Kootenai Health’s testing data. In April, they reported a 4.4% positivity rate in tests. Now, 13.6% of COVID-19 tests conducted are coming back positive – a three-fold increase.

The increase in COVID patients is leading to less and less capacity for an already-busy critical care unit at Kootenai Health. Hoopman said the critical care unit was 90% full as of Friday afternoon, not counting COVID patients.

“The last three to four weeks have started to put us back into a stress point where it’s created concerns on our part to care for not only our COVID patients presenting, but also the other patients needing ICU care,” Hoopman said.

Kootenai Health has the capacity to treat many more COVID-19 patients, as they did in the height of the third wave, but the goal is to avoid that. Also, summer is peak season for trauma incidents that require critical care.

On Friday, Dr. Sam Artzis, health officer of the Northeast Tri County Health District, said it is still difficult to get patients transferred to the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene region, even those who are not COVID patients.

Artzis and providers in Republic are using the statewide coordination center, based at Harborview Medical Center, to transfer patients who need a higher level of care.

In Kootenai County, 37% of residents who are 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In Idaho, 43% of residents over the age of 12 have received at least one dose, and nationwide, 57% of U.S. residents have received at least one dose.

“The number one need of our health care community is for individuals to become vaccinated against COVID-19,” Hoopman said.

In Spokane County, vaccination efforts also continue, though rates lag behind rates in Seattle.

About 48% of the Spokane County population 16 and older have received at least one dose.

There are lots of vaccine clinics offering doses in the Idaho Panhandle, through the health district and local providers. Spokane County residents can find a vaccine at the state’s vaccine locator or call (833) VAX-HELP, then press #.

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 256 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. The high number of cases is due to a data backlog discovered Thursday.

There are 77 patients with COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 31 new cases on Friday and no additional deaths.

There are 26 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

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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