Idaho sees decrease in COVID-19 positivity rate, North Idaho experts cautious

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Almost two years into the pandemic and cases are up and down in the Inland Northwest.

When it comes to case rates and hospitalizations, eastern Washington and North Idaho are lagging behind the rest of the country.

In North Idaho, the number of people in the hospital has been going down in the Panhandle. Idaho as a whole is seeing a dip in cases.

“There is some good information from the state coming out,” said Don Duffy, director of the Panhandle Health District. “One of those is the positivity rate in the state – it had a high of 17 percent and it’s now down to 12 percent, so that’s positive, but that’s not what we’re seeing here in North Idaho.

North Idaho’s positivity rate is 15 points higher – at 27 points. That means of all the tests they do, 27 percent are positive cases.

Fewer people are being admitted to the hospital, but the Panhandle Health District doesn’t think this is indicative of a long-term trend.

“Our inpatients at Kootenai Health are more than all of the inpatients in Spokane hospitals combined,” Duffy said. “That is also true for patients in the ICU.”

Heritage Health has seen an increase in testing and the same demand of monoclonal antibody treatments as when they first opened.

Dr. Peter Purrington, the chief clinical officer for Heritage Health, agrees; it’s too early to believe they’re out of the woods.

“I think its premature to say that we’re on a true downward trend at this point, in North Idaho, we’re still seeing a high number of hospitalization, a high number of patients requiring critical care, treatment and testing,” he said.

Duffy believes the only way out is by vaccinating more people.

“There is a direct correlation between the percentage of a community vaccinated and what’s happening in our hospitals,” Duffy said. “And we need to assist the hospitals. We need to most importantly, assist our entire community so that crisis standards of care are rescinded, so the best quality of care can be provided to all of our community.”

Today, there are 354 new coronavirus cases in North Idaho. That number could go up even more since there are over 2500 backlogged cases.

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