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Hospitals in Idaho still in crisis of care, but COVID-19 cases trending down

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 22, 2021

The emergency entrance of the Kootenai Health 330-bed community-owned hospital is seen in Coeur d'Alene on Sept. 10, 2021. Idaho's top health official has deactivated crisis standards of care except for North Idaho. State Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen issued the decision Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, after health officials said the number of COVID-19 patients remains high but no longer exceeds health care resources in most areas.  (Young Kwak/Associated Press)
The emergency entrance of the Kootenai Health 330-bed community-owned hospital is seen in Coeur d'Alene on Sept. 10, 2021. Idaho's top health official has deactivated crisis standards of care except for North Idaho. State Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen issued the decision Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, after health officials said the number of COVID-19 patients remains high but no longer exceeds health care resources in most areas. (Young Kwak/Associated Press)

Idaho health officials on Monday moved all of the state out of crisis standards of care – except North Idaho.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continue to exceed the health care resources available in the region.

And while North Idaho remains in crisis standards of care, Idaho health officials acknowledged that COVID cases and numbers also are on the decline in North Idaho.

“If that trend continues, I would expect that some time in the near future, whenever that may be, we’ll reach a point where the demand for health care resources is below the supply for health care resources, and we can move out of crisis standards of care,” Jeppesen said.

A crisis of care is declared when hospitals can’t keep up with demand. A declaration allows hospitals to postpone nonemergency procedures and lower usual standards. It also would allow them to ration care, but officials say they have not had to resort to that.

Jeppesen said Kootenai Health, the largest medical center in North Idaho, is not in the same situation as other hospitals in the state.

COVID hospitalizations have decreased significantly at Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene in recent weeks. There are currently 58 COVID patients hospitalized there, with 26 requiring critical care. Earlier this fall, Kootenai Health consistently had more than 100 COVID hospitalizations, using alternative care spaces to accommodate the large amount of COVID patients needing treatment.

Case counts have declined in Kootenai County, particularly since mid-October.

“The decrease in COVID-19 admissions and the current downward trend in community positivity rate have given us reasons to be cautiously optimistic,” Kootenai Health spokesperson Caiti Bobbitt said in a statement. “We also want to consider the impact the holidays could have on the spread of COVID-19, and we are still encouraging the community to continue to take necessary precautions to protect themselves and loved ones against the spread of serious illness from COVID-19 and other viruses.”

Similarly, Idaho health officials were wary of being too cheery too soon, however, with low vaccination rates and other states and countries in Europe seeing COVID cases starting to increase again.

“We’re very concerned as we go into the holiday season that we’re set up for a reversal of the good trends we’ve been seeing,” Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist, told reporters Monday.

Health officials encouraged those who have not been vaccinated to begin their vaccine series, and for all adults who have been vaccinated to get a booster dose, if they received an mRNA vaccine six months ago or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months ago or longer.

Here’s a look at local numbers

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 81 new COVID cases on Monday, in addition to 306 cases reported over the weekend. There were two additional deaths reported.

There have been 1,072 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

There are 81 patients hospitalized in Spokane hospitals with coronavirus.

The Panhandle Health District reported 198 new COVID cases Monday and over the weekend as well as seven additional deaths.

There have been 693 deaths due to COVID-19 in Panhandle residents.

There are 79 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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