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Some Inland Northwest hospitals at or near capacity amid COVID-19 surge

In North Idaho's Panhandle Health District, 96% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, a spokesperson said.

KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho — About half of the COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized at Kootenai Health in Coeur d'Alene are receiving treatment in the ICU.

In North Idaho's Panhandle Health District, 96% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Forty COVID-19 patients are hospitalized and 22 of those patients are receiving critical care in the entire health district as of Tuesday afternoon, according to spokesperson Kate Hoyer.

North Idaho and Spokane County are seeing increases in coronavirus cases. PHD is reporting about 100 new cases every day, according to a press release, and the testing positivity and testing demand also continue to increase. 

Hoyer explained that the district is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases due to a lack of vaccinations.

"Every unvaccinated person in District 1, which is around 60% of the population, leaves the community vulnerable," Hoyer said. "If you haven't received the vaccine, then you are vulnerable with catching COVID or any of the variants." 

Spokane County’s COVID-19 case rate is sitting at 208 per 100,000 people from July 18-31, according to the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD). The health district also reported on Tuesday that 80 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized.

SRHD also reported 451 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, adding that the case count reflects a combination of backlog received from the Washington Data Reporting System and a rise in COVID-19 cases being seen across the state due to the spread of the Delta variant.

"The backlog includes additional cases from the last seven days, however, it is still a concerning increase," SRHD wrote in a press release.

Due to the increased amount of daily cases that PHD is receiving, health officials are focusing on case investigation by contacting those who tested positive for COVID-19 and asking them to follow up with their close contacts. This will allow staff to contact additional cases in a timely manner but close contacts of those cases will not be called by PHD. This is temporary, and normal case investigation and contact tracing will resume when possible. 

RELATED: CDC rolls out new COVID-19 testing guidance for fully vaccinated

Some hospitals operating at or near capacity, doctor says

Kootenai Health Chief of Staff Robert Scroggins, MD, said that most hospitals in the region have been operating at or near capacity for the past week or so. Those who need to seek medical attention for issues other than COVID-19 could also be impacted by the hospital's capacity issues. 

"If we don't have a bed to put them in, we may have to ship them somewhere else. And there's sometimes a delay in care," Scroggins said.

Now, the hospitals are seeing young people admitted into the hospital for COVID-19.

"The average age of the patients admitted to the hospital and into the ICU is younger," Scroggins explained. "Previously, we had seen a lot of people 78 years old, that were being admitted with COVID. Now we're seeing 40s, 50s, 60s."

Washington DOH concerned with COVID-19 uptick

In Washington, the state Department of Health (DOH) is also concerned with an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Over the past four days, an average of 1,500 new cases has been reported each day.

Since July 30, 6,000 new cases have been reported. The positivity rate is also at 5.5%, which is up from 2% two months ago.

Last week, Washington saw a 20% increase in hospitalizations with more than 600 people affected. The DOH explained that more than 94% of cases in Washington for those over the age of 12 are people who have not been fully vaccinated.

Because the Delta variant is so transmissible and contagious, it has become the dominant strain in Washington and has made up roughly 76% of cases.