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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

COVID-19 cases soaring in local schools with at least 800 positive tests in Inland Northwest this month

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.  (HOGP)

From Spokane to Coeur d’Alene and every school district in between, COVID-19 is running rampant.

As of Friday afternoon, at least 800 students and staff had tested positive this month for coronavirus in Spokane and Kootenai counties.

The numbers are certainly higher, as many districts have opted not to update information more than weekly, while others have yet to publish them at all.

The biggest district in the area, Spokane Public Schools, also experienced the biggest spike in COVID-19 cases. During the one-week period ending Thursday, the district recorded 138 positive cases and 526 people in quarantine as a result.

Last week, those numbers were 50 and 296, respectively.

The biggest surprise: nine cases were confirmed to have originated from inside school buildings. The district had only 12 during the entire 2020-21 school year, though much of the year was spent in remote learning.

The COVID-19 surge hit some schools hard. Shadle Park High School had four of the cases that originated internally, and 15 overall.

At Stevens Elementary in East Central, seven students or staff have tested positive with 56 quarantined; that’s roughly one person out of nine.

Lidgerwood Elementary in north Spokane reported six cases and 41 people quarantined. All told, quarantine numbers were in double digits in 18 buildings districtwide.

Soaring rates in Coeur d’Alene Schools forced the district to send a pleading letter to parents Thursday night after registering 194 positive cases since school opened on Sept. 8.

“As we approach the end of the second week of this school year, we would like to take this opportunity to emphasize how important it is to keep students at home if they have tested positive for COVID-19, are awaiting results of COVID (testing)… are experiencing symptoms,” the district said in a districtwide message.

“These measures can help us dramatically reduce the risk of in-school spread of the virus among students,” the letter said.

As of Friday, Coeur d’Alene had 223 students and 23 staff members staying home for COVID-19-related reasons.

Even harder hit is the small Liberty School District south of Spokane. As of Friday, the district of about 500 students reported 58 positive cases in the last 14 days, with 77 people quarantined.

Both the high school and the elementary/middle school buildings were operating with increased physical distancing whenever possible, meals taken outside or in the classroom and other measures.

The same protocols are in place at Medical Lake High School, where an outbreak on the football team last week led to a brief return to remote learning. Districtwide, Medical Lake has reported 55 positive cases.

In the Mead School District, 110 positive cases have been reported since classes began Sept. 7. Thirty of those cases occurred at Mead High School.

Numbers were also higher in the Central Valley School District, with 111 positive cases in the previous 14 days. However, no cases were the result of internal contact.

University High School and Ponderosa Elementary School had 16 cases each.

East Valley’s most recent update, on Monday, showed 53 positive cases and 153 people quarantined. The district did not record how many students and staff were forced to quarantine as a result of close contact.

As of Friday, West Valley and Riverside were not posting updates on their COVID-19 cases.

Cheney reported 53 positive cases in the past two weeks

Apart from Coeur d’Alene, reporting of COVID-19 cases has been spotty in North Idaho. Post Falls, which has almost 6,000 students, has reported five confirmed cases since school began on Sept. 8.

Lakeland, with an enrollment of about 4,500, does not maintain a running count of COVID-19 cases.