Saturday, November 27, 2021
Nov. 27, 2021

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Sen. Murray pushes for large federal investment in public health


SPOKANE — Washington Sen. Patty Murray told public health leaders on Tuesday that she would advocate to keep a proposed $30 billion in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill to bolster the country’s public health infrastructure over the next 10 years.

“While vaccines have given us a way to get through COVID, we need to be prepared to get through the next pandemic,” Murray said on a call with public health leaders in eastern Washington on Tuesday.

She also called on residents to get vaccinated to help get the country to the end of the current pandemic.

Murray is proposing investments in public health data infrastructure to help local districts track diseases and contain them, as well as investments in workforce development.

Eastern Washington hospital leaders pointed to staffing shortages that are compounding the surge of COVID patients and leading to a delay in care for others who need surgeries and procedures.

“Our doctors should not have to be treating patients in hospital waiting rooms, and patients who are in need of life-saving care for surgery for things like cancer shouldn’t be forced to wait indefinitely because our hospitals are overwhelmed to the breaking point by unvaccinated COVID-19 patients,” Murray said.

In Idaho, however, COVID activity may be stabilizing for the first time during the delta surge, but state health officials were hesitant to draw larger conclusions from the data since there are several health districts with backlogged cases, including the Panhandle Health District.

There are about 9,000 backlogged COVID cases across the state, including nearly 3,000 in north Idaho, so case counts are not currently reflecting the reality on the ground.

Hospitalizations have declined somewhat from the peak point last week at Kootenai Health, but the entire state remains in crisis standards of care, where some types of care may be prioritized over others.

This will likely remain the case, state health officials said, until COVID case rates begin to decline significantly.

Hospitals are still operating in crisis standards by treating patients outside of traditional care areas and stretching nursing and staffing ratios, even with staffing support from the Department of Defense and federal staffing agencies.

When these metrics return to normal or contingency levels, the state or regions could move out of crisis standards, Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters Tuesday.

In the meantime, the death rate remains high, and more younger people are dying from the virus in Idaho than ever.

“We’re seeing much much younger people dying,” said Dr. Kathryn Turner, deputy state epidemiologist. “The majority of people dying are younger than 70 years of age.”

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District reported 173 new cases on Monday and 258 new cases on Tuesday, in addition to 13 deaths.

There have been 875 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County.

There are 167 patients with the virus in Spokane hospitals.

The Panhandle Health District reported 228 new COVID-19 cases and 11 additional deaths.

There have been 523 deaths due to COVID-19 in the Panhandle.

There are 151 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.