Regional News

The latest stories from Spokane Public Radio and the Northwest News Network.

Ways to Connect

Spokane Filmmaker Puts Personal Face On Homelessness

4 hours ago
Screenshot from Rising River Media

For several years, documentary filmmaker Maurice Smith has been working on “My Road Leads Home," a series of films that highlight different aspects of Spokane’s problem with homelessness. Now he’s focusing his lens on individual people, to let the viewer get to know some of the folks who are living difficult lives on the city’s streets.

Smith is the executive director of Rising River Media in Spokane. You can see his documentaries at

Spokane COVID Response

Black Friday brought another high Covid case count in Spokane County. The health district on Friday reported positive tests for 409 people, one of the highest one-day counts during the pandemic. That’s on top of 238 cases reported on Thanksgiving.

Courtesy of Providence Health Care

Spokane’s medical education infrastructure continues to grow.

Providence Sacred Heart has announced it is planning to open a new residency program for new doctors in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

The new residency program will be operated by Providence Health Care and its St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane.

Washington Adds Covid Contact Tracers, Adjusts Protocols

Nov 26, 2020
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On Wednesday, Washington state health officials announced they’re planning to hire 350 more Covid case investigators and contact tracers. The goal is to have them ready within a few weeks if the state experiences another surge of cases sometime this winter.

But there’s also a shift in strategy.

Courtesy of WSU Carson College of Business

Covid is making Christmas shopping a different experience this year. It’s not only trending toward more online, but also more local, buying.

Every year for the last four, Washington State University marketing professor Joan Giese [geese] has conducted a survey of Northwest shoppers, including people in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area. 

This year, she says, recently-imposed restrictions on travel and crowds in Washington have given the holiday season a different vibe.


Washington state health officials say they expect to receive their first shipment of the first Covid vaccine by mid-December. That’s if a federal committee approves the vaccine produced by Pfizer when it meets on December 10.

University students and staff in the Pacific Northwest are giving a trial run to a smartphone app that tells you if you were recently near someone who just tested positive for COVID-19. State health departments are rolling out similar apps across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Screenshot from Spokane Regional Health District

Two Spokane hospital leaders say their facilities have capacity to see more patients, despite the high numbers of people receiving care for the coronavirus.

Susan Stacey is the chief operating officer at Providence Sacred Heart. She says Sacred Heart and Holy Family had 90 Covid patients between them Wednesday morning. David O’Brien, the chief executive at MultiCare in Spokane, said Deaconess and Valley Hospitals had 33.

Lauri Jones has been working in public health in Washington state's Okanogan County for 17 years. After repeated recent threats to her safety, she recently got a new security system for her home.

"I still find myself sometimes looking over my shoulder," Jones says. "Especially if I walk out of the building and it's getting obviously dark earlier."

She's not leaving her post as the county's community health director. But her colleague Dr. John McCarthy is leaving in December. He says the workload has become too heavy.

Counties In Washington Certify November Election

Nov 24, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

County elections officials in Washington certified their elections on Tuesday. In Spokane County at least, there was much less drama than what we’ve seen in other counties and states. The canvassing board reviewed the numbers and voted to certify the election, as per usual.

What came after was unusual, says Auditor Vicky Dalton.

Lauri Jones has been working in public health in Washington’s Okanogan County for 17 years.

But after repeated threats to her safety, she recently got a new security system for her home.

“I still find myself sometimes looking over my shoulder,” Jones says. “Especially if I walk out of the building and it’s getting obviously dark earlier.”

She’s not leaving her post as the community health director. But her colleague Dr. John McCarthy is in December. He says the workload has become too heavy.

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, it's now increasingly apparent that 2020 will be remembered for an unusually high death toll -- not just from COVID-19. In the medical field, deaths above what you would normally expect are called "excess deaths." Even after you subtract out COVID-19 casualties, many thousands more Oregonians, Idahoans and Washingtonians have gone to an early grave this year compared to a typical year.

Providence Health Care

Rural hospitals in Washington are in better shape than their counterparts in other rural areas around the West and Midwest, in terms of handling Covid surges.

Jacqueline Barton True, the vice president for rural health for the Washington State Hospital Association, says there are several reasons. One, she says, is that Washington was much more aggressive in battling the pandemic during its early days.

Spokane COVID Response

Spokane County broke the 500 mark in new Covid cases for the first time on Monday.

The weekend numbers started innocently enough with the Spokane Regional Health District recording 146 new cases on Saturday. But then Sunday brought 368 cases, the third highest mark of the pandemic, 514 cases for the two days. And then, Monday nearly matched it, 513 new cases.

Screenshot from Spokane Covid Response

This week, the mayors in Spokane County communities are going to raise their voices in support of more help for businesses and people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Courtesy of Lucira

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first at-home Covid-19 test. That means, if you’re not showing symptoms of the virus, you won’t need a doctor’s permission or go to a clinic to get a test. You can administer it yourself and get a relatively quick answer. But the test is not cheap and not necessarily easy to procure.

There’s also the question of whether those who take the test will report the result to health authorities.

You’ve seen the movies: Navy SEALs slowly emerge from the water and walk up a beach. In real life, the Navy is hoping to conduct special operations training exercises at 28 Washington State Parks.

But many park users say it ups the “creepiness” factor.

In the dark of night, six to eight SEAL trainees would swim or dive out of a battery-powered submersible vessel and head up onto a beach. They’d clandestinely disappear into the environment, said Warrant Officer Esteban Alvarado.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward says the city is making plans for outdoor winter and holiday celebrations to improve peoples’ moods and allow them to safely be out in the community.

“There are some things we have learned in the past in our Covid recovery, and that is we can do events very safely like we did Fourth of July," Woodward said.

Salvation Army

The Covid pandemic is changing the way the Salvation Army is approaching this holiday season in Spokane.

This week, during its annual Corporate Kettle Kick-off, 28 companies have provided people to ring bells at the Salvation Army’s red kettles. But Major Ken Perine says most of the kettles will be virtual, not physical, this year.

Another Big Covid Day, 414 Cases, In Spokane County

Nov 19, 2020
Spokane COVID Response

Thursday brought another big day in new Covid cases, both in Spokane and north Idaho.

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 414 new cases of coronavirus. It’s the second-highest one-day total and a continued escalation of the surge in the region over the last two weeks.

Screenshot from Panhandle Health District meeting

The board that governs Idaho’s Panhandle Health District has approved a mask mandate for all five counties of north Idaho. The board had approved a previous mandate for Kootenai County only on July 23, then rescinded it on Oct. 23.

The mandate is good for 60 days and will be reviewed at the board's next meeting in January.

U.S. Senate Committee Approves Native Broadband Bill

Nov 19, 2020

A bill that would help Native American communities get more broadband access on reservation lands was approved by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee Wednesday.

Government 101: What Is A Whip, Anyway?

Nov 18, 2020
Washington House Republican communications

Elected leaders from both major parties are preparing for their next congressional and legislative sessions in January.

One of their annual rituals is to choose leaders who will shepherd their parties’ agendas through the legislative process. Those leaders hold titles such as floor leader and whip.

But what do these people actually do?

TVW screenshot

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and others are counseling residents to reduce the size of their Thanksgiving celebrations.

If enough people take that to heart, state health officials, such as Health Officer Kathy Lofy, say it looks like Washington should bend its Covid curve back down.

The most recent extension of the U.S.-Canada border closure expires this Friday, November 21, but no one expects the restrictions to be lifted then. First implemented in March, the closure of the land and sea border to nonessential crossings have been extended monthly by mutual agreement between Ottawa and the Trump administration.

Cannabis Regulators Association

When Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, they had to develop their own regulatory agencies and protocols from scratch.


Now that more states have joined the party, they’re pooling their expertise as the industry matures.

TVW screenshot

The Covid train continues to roll in Spokane County. The health district on Tuesday reported 234 new cases. Taken over a two-week period, that’s about 560 cases per hundred thousand residents.

Spokane's Patsy Clark Mansion Has A New Owner

Nov 17, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

One of Spokane’s most iconic buildings is changing hands.


The law firm that has owned the Patsy Clark Mansion in Browne’s Addition for the last 16 years is selling to a group of Spokane investors.

Eymann Allison Jones and Hunter Elder Law renovated the building and has made it available for public meetings and tours. Now it’s selling to Patsy Clark, LLC, whose managing director is Steve DeWalt.

The director of public health in the third most populous county in the United States will be Washington's next secretary of health. 

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced the appointment of Dr. Umair A. Shah to lead the state Department of Health beginning on December 21.

Since 2013, Shah has been executive director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas. He will replace outgoing Secretary John Wiesman who has served in the position since 2013. Previously, Wiesman announced his plan to leave the post at the end of the year to take a teaching job in North Carolina. 

North Cascades Highway Closed For Winter

Nov 16, 2020
Washington State Department of Transportation camera

Washington’s North Cascades Highway is now closed for the winter.

Each fall, the state Department of Transportation blocks off a 35-to-50-mile section of Highway 20 when snow begins falling in the Cascade Mountains that line the highway.