‘It is a deja vu’: North Idaho COVID surge similar to one last year

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging nationwide and North Idaho is no different.

Kootenai Health has the most COVID patients in the state and 97 percent of them are not vaccinated.

It is dealing with a trend they’re all too familiar with. They’re having an uptick in patients similar to what they had in December, during the last surge. The difference, there wasn’t a vaccine.

Even with vaccines available for people now, hospitals are struggling to keep up with the amount of sick people coming in for help.

“I think there is a recognition of this is a serious illness and we all need to take it seriously,” said Jeremy Evans, Chief Regional Operations Officer at Kootenai Health.

Kootenai Health is trying to keep up with treating COVID patients. As of Tuesday, 69 people are in the hospital with the virus, 28 in critical care.

“Many of our single, private patients’ rooms we’re now putting two patients in a room. That is a way we can physical bed capacity,” Evans said.

Also, nurses are getting burned out as more sick people come in.

According to the Idaho Department of Health, 94.7 percent of people who were hospitalized between mid-May to mid-July were not fully vaccinated.

“It is a deja vu really, Kaitlin, I mean we are seeing the case increase and unfortunately we’re also seeing the healthcare system being tremendously burdened,” said Don Duffy, Interim Director of Panhandle Health District (PHD).

PHD is seeing an average of 113 new cases a day, and a positivity rate of nearly 25 percent. They say it shows the reality of community transmission. Only 38 percent of eligible people in North Idaho are fully vaccinated.

“I think it’s very comfortable to say that the delta variant is the leading variant here in all five counties of North Idaho,” Duffy said.

Health experts are trying everything they can to prevent hospitalizations by pushing vaccinations and education.

“The pandemic is not about an individual. The pandemic is about the community,” said Dr. Robert Scoggins, Chief of Staff and Medical Director of Critical Care at Kootenai Health. “I do know that many of the patients have said they are going to get it when they get out and when they recover, because they don’t want to do this again.”

Besides the variant, health experts are concerned about testing since it’s been increasing. They’re also worried about potential outbreaks in schools.

They suggest to follow CDC guidelines; mask up, wash your hands, socially distance and get vaccinated.

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