Northern Idaho may send new virus cases to Seattle, Portland

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho. (AP) — People with COVID-19 in Northern Idaho soon may have to be sent to Seattle or Portland, Oregon, because the region’s hospitals are nearing capacity.

Kootenai Health hospital said in a statement Wednesday that their hospital is at 99% capacity for patients. The facility is also short-staffed, as demand for nurses grows with the rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, the statement said.

“Because all regional hospitals are experiencing the same situation, there will be limited opportunities to transfer patients to other facilities once at capacity,” the hospital said. “If there is no room available, Kootenai Health is currently looking at hospitals in Seattle or Portland to find space to transfer patients, but it is very limited.”

As of Wednesday morning, Kootenai Health had 31 COVID-19 inpatients and 11 required critical care. Chief Physician Executive Karen Cabell told KREM the hospital nearing capacity at its current levels is “unprecedented.”

Kootenai Health will not turn anybody away, but there may be long wait times and patients might receive treatment in different locations such as the waiting room, Cabell said.

In the southern Idaho city of Twin Falls, St. Luke’s Hospital has had to cancel all elective surgery for the month to accommodate an influx of COVID-19 patients. One in every four patients there is sick with COVID-19.

Idaho is seeing its largest coronavirus spike since the pandemic began, with new cases increasing statewide by 46.5% percent over the past two weeks. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has declined to take steps such as requiring masks statewide to slow the spread of the virus.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.