New section for COVID-19 news

by Chanse Watson
Managing Editor | March 24, 2020 12:54 PM

In light of the massive amount of information (both on the regional and state levels) coming out regarding the COVID-19 situation, combined with most sporting events being canceled, the News-Press has decided to temporarily repurpose our sports section as a hub for Silver Valley COVID-19 Public Service Announcements.

While major/breaking COVID-19 news that affects the community as a whole will remain on the front page, other items such as relevant press releases, announcements and updates pertaining to the virus will be found in this section.

Among the content provided will be a “living” list of Shoshone County businesses that remain open in some way, shape or form. This list will change often as more local businesses change their status over time. Readers are encouraged to reach out to the News-Press and help us keep the list as accurate as possible.

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As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in neighboring Kootenai County continues to rise (six as of Monday), health officials in Shoshone County are already gearing up for what they see as an inevitability.

Also as of Monday, Dr. David Lawhorn of Shoshone Medical Center confirms that while residents have been tested — there are still no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Shoshone County.

“We’re still in the state of mind that it is coming here though,” Dr. Lawhorn said.

SMC staff have been holding multiple daily meetings to get a plan in place to handle increased testing and treatment in a worst case scenario.

When it comes to testing COVID-19, SMC is currently one of many medical facilities in the region that lack a surplus of testing kits.

Until more test kits become available, the majority are being reserved for and used on individuals that classify as “high-risk,” such as the elderly and/or people with preexisting conditions. Around 80% of those who contract COVID-19 show little or no symptoms, even after the 2-14 day exposure period.

Dr. Lawhorn explains that the only facility in the region that currently has the ability to do outpatient COVID-19 testing — with an accompanying doctor order — is Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene.

“We know this is difficult for people in the Silver Valley,” he said.

Thankfully for Silver Valley residents, plans are already being drawn up to create a mobile collection center that will allow those who think they are sick to get tested safely without endangering the health of hospital staff.

As of now, there is no collection point and SMC is not conducting any routine collection for send-off testing.

In the meantime, Lawhorn has personally visited all of the Silver Valley’s nursing homes in the last week and distributed flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) collection swabs so these illnesses can be ruled out if a resident presents symptoms. If used, the test swabs are sent to the SMC lab for testing.

“The goal is to isolate and test in place and treat symptomatically in place as much as possible, so as not to overwhelm the hospital or potentially expose hospital personnel unnecessarily,” Lawhorn said.

The News-Press will continue to follow this story.

If you begin to show symptoms associated with COVID-19 (cough, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing), ensure you self-isolate and do not go to the hospital.

If you are tested for COVID-19, ensure that you self-isolate until you receive your test results. The importance of self-isolating cannot be stressed enough. However, when the symptoms subside you need to continue to self-isolate for an additional 72 hours before removing yourself from isolation. Please adhere to these guidelines to help end the transmission of this virus.