Spokane’s health officer concerned over Idaho, Northern Quest reopening

Idaho is beginning the first phase of reopening its economy in the wake of COVID-19
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SPOKANE, Wash – Spokane’s chief health officer is concerned about the impacts to Spokane County with the reopening of businesses in Idaho and also the reopening next week of Northern Quest Casino.

Idaho moved into Stage 1 of its reopening Friday, which includes most retail stores opening, daycare services resuming and churches resuming in-person services, as long as social distancing measures are in place.

Washington has yet to announce a plan to lift most restrictions; Governor Jay Inslee will announce the phases, but likely no timeline, in a news conference Friday afternoon.

“Yes, their number [of cases] has been less, but their testing has been significantly less than Washington as a whole,” said Spokane Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz. “We may be impacted by that.”

As of Friday morning, Idaho is reporting 2,015 confirmed and “probable” cases, with 31 new cases reported Thursday. Statewide, 29,070 people have been tested, which makes up 1.7 percent of Idaho’s entire population.

Washington has tested 193,981 people, as of Thursday evening. That represents 2.5 percent of the population.

Dr. Lutz says he hasn’t spoken directly to Panhandle Health District about concerns over lifting restrictions, but said, “It’s unfortunately out of their hands. It’s the governor’s decision.”

He believes it’s only natural that people who live in Idaho will come to Spokane County. “It’s not like we have a 75-foot wall… People will come over to shop… people come over to the ‘big city’.”

Lutz also expressed concern over Northern Quest Resort and Casino choosing to reopen many of its services next week. The casino is tribal and does not have to follow the state guidelines.

RELATED: Northern Quest Resort & Casino to reopen May 5

When asked if Dr. Lutz supports a regional approach to the lifting of restrictions, he said he’s not advocating for it, but isn’t opposed to it, either. Spokane’s mayor and other elected officials are preparing a proposal to send to the governor next week which lays out what a regional approach would look like.

Governor Inslee has said he’d be open to considering it, but has not committed to that as of Friday afternoon.