Kootenai, Boundary Counties moved to ‘red’ risk category as COVID cases rise

1 Coronavirus

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Kootenai and Boundary Counties have been moved into the substantial risk category as a result of rising COVID-19 cases.

The Panhandle Health District made the decision Thursday to move the two counties into the “red” zone because of increasing test positivity rates and current hospital capacity.

On Wednesday, Kootenai Health announced it was at 99 percent capacity and may be forced to transfer patients to hospitals in Seattle and Portland.

The decisions regarding risk category directly affect schools and work places.

“We know these categories are important to the schools in making their decisions moving forward. Schools and districts in our area have excellent plans in place to keep kids safe in school,” said Lora Whalen, District Director for PHD. “Yesterday, the State Board of Education modified their reopening guidance for schools, doing away with their recommendation to move to full remote learning under the red category. This will enable schools to look at their individual schools and consider implementing plans to keep kids in some form of modified face-to-face learning with safety measures in place.”

The Coeur d’Alene School District has already implemented hybrid learning plans as a result of increasing cases. High schoolers were shifted to a hybrid learning program this past Monday and students in grades K-8 are set to shift to a four-day in-person, one-day remote learning program starting on Monday.

RELATED: Coeur d’Alene school board elevates risk level to moderate

READ: Coeur d’Alene students return to hybrid learning amid COVID-19 spike

County risk categories are reviewed and updated each Thursday. PHD uses key metrics when making their recommendations, including positivity rate, hospitalizations and a seven-day rolling average of cases per county.

“These decisions are not made lightly, we don’t make knee-jerk reactions,” Whalen said. “We are seeing trends that are moving in the opposite direction from where we want to be. Rates of community transmission and testing positivity are increasing, and regional hospital capacity is tight.”

PHD recommends that, regardless of risk level, people take every effort to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The community is asked to wear masks, avoid large gatherings, wash hands frequently and stay home when feeling sick.

RELATED: Kootenai Health at 99 percent capacity, may have to transfer patients to hospitals in Seattle and Portland