Regional News

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

Ways to Connect

Courtesy Erin Dickey

Pets dead or sick after coming in contact with Columbia River water near the Tri-Cities, Wash. Now health officials have confirmed the culprit, Anatoxin-a in toxic algae.

Charlie was just nosing around in the Columbia River. Her family was off a beach they had visited many times before just north of Richland, Washington.

Screenshot from Mayo Clinic video

Covid is public enemy number one for the Spokane Regional Health District, but syphilis is also high on its list of concern, especially for newborns. 

The number of confirmed syphilis cases in the county increased from 26 in 2014 to more than 200 in 2018, according to the Spokane Regional Health District.

Kootenai Health

The entire state of Idaho is now in a crisis standard of care due to a massive increase in COVID-19 cases.

The declaration came after a request from St. Luke’s Healthcare System in Boise. The hospital had surpassed its capacity and delayed most non-life-threatening procedures – including some cancer treatments, says Dr. Jim Souza, the chief physician at St. Luke’s.

Center for American Progress

As families try to return to the workplace- many are struggling to find childcare – due to the number of providers that closed during the pandemic, and staffing shortages at the centers that are still open.

Several Spokane area providers, businesses and state agencies have put together a list of policies, and potential funding sources they hope could put the industry on solid ground.

Washington Reopens State Recreation Lands

Sep 16, 2021
Courtesy of Washington State Parks Commission

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has reopened all Department of Natural Resource lands east of the Cascade Mountains to the public.

A woman abandoned her car and her dog at a security perimeter on Washington’s Capitol Campus Wednesday morning and then managed to access the secure grounds to the governor’s residence before she was stopped by the Washington State Patrol.

Gov. Jay Inslee and First Lady Trudi Inslee were not home at the time of the security breach, according to Inslee’s office.

Providence Delays All Non-Emergency Procedures

Sep 15, 2021
Courtesy of Providence Health Care

Providence Health Care says it is delaying all non-emergency surgeries and procedures at its two Spokane hospitals because of the Covid patient crush and resulting staff shortages.

The decision affects care at Sacred Heart and Holy Family hospitals.

Research photos taken with a drone show multiple killer whales are close to giving birth in one of the Pacific Northwest's critically endangered pods. The late-stage pregnancies stirred excitement among whale watchers -- and also renewed worries about the availability of adequate food supply for the mothers and babies.

Screenshot from FDA website

Hospital officials in Washington say Covid patients and their families are asking doctors to prescribe the deworming drug ivermectin as part of their treatment regimens. The drug isn’t recommended by federal or state health authorities for Covid, but patients are asking that it be administered anyway.

Vaccine Deadline Nears For WA State Employees

Sep 13, 2021
Courtesy of Cascade Medical Center

Most Washington state employees face a deadline next month to receive the Covid vaccination they’ll need to keep their jobs. But Monday was an important day for some to stay on track in their quest to reach that goal.

More than 90 state troopers, correctional officers, ferry workers, city firefighters and other public sector employees in Washington have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to overturn Gov. Jay Inslee’s requirement that they get vaccinated against COVID-19, or lose their jobs.

TVW screenshot

A new Washington mask mandate goes into effect today. It applies to crowds of more than 500 people in outdoor settings, even for people who have been vaccinated.

“For anyone wondering why we are doing this, I guess it should be pretty obvious. It’s because we’re seeing evidence of transmission, unfortunately, in outdoor settings. The Watershed Festival at the Gorge led to more than 200 infections from that one event and it was outdoors," said Governor Jay Inslee last week.

Courtesy of Polly Bemis Ranch

This summer, Idahoans celebrated the life of one of the state’s most famous Chinese-American citizens. Polly Bemis now has her own statue in Boise.

For those not familiar with her story, Bemis came to the U.S. in the early 1870s. It was a time when many Chinese men were coming to the States to find work, in the mines or wherever else they could.

Courtesy of Idaho legislature

Former Idaho State Legislator Aaron von Ehlinger, is facing a warrant for his arrest on rape charges.

A warrant for von Ehlinger’s arrest was issued Thursday for Sexual Penetration-Forcible by Use with a Foreign Object, a felony. He is a Republican from Lewiston.

He is accused of raping an Idaho legislative intern last spring and resigned amidst an Idaho State Legislature investigation into his conduct.

Idaho Public TV screenshot

Idaho’s governor is no fan of President Biden’s order that many federal employees and contractors be vaccinated for the coronavirus. 

Brad Little is looking into suing the government.

Panhandle Health District Names New Director

Sep 10, 2021
Courtesy of Panhandle Health District

Idaho’s Panhandle Health District has looked to its own ranks for a new leader.

Don Duffy was introduced Friday as the agency’s new director.

Rebecca White

Healthcare providers say if COVID numbers don’t improve, Eastern Washington could soon follow North Idaho into crisis standard of care.

Bidders are lining up for a $14 million equipment auction in the latest turn of the Easterday ghost cattle scam.

There’s a fleet of Dodge Ram trucks, tractors, dozers, feed mixing wagons, 4-wheelers and even a horse trailer with living quarters for riders. In all, more than 100 truckloads of farm-related equipment are on the auction block in one of the largest sales of farming gear ever undertaken in the country, much less the Northwest.

Just in time for the kickoff of the NFL regular season, the first legal sports betting operation in Washington state has opened for business. On Thursday, a line of bettors queued behind a sports celebrity to place their first bets at a tribal casino in the eastern suburbs of Seattle.

Courtesy Of Danica Garcia


Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced that people attending outdoor events with 500 or more attendees will have to wear a mask, whether vaccinated or not. The new, expanded mask mandate goes into effect on Monday.

Inslee’s order comes on the heels of similar requirements that took effect this week in King and Pierce Counties.

Northwest deer dying of drought-related viral disease

Sep 8, 2021

More white-tailed deer are dying in the Northwest of viruses that often cause more die-offs after hot summers and droughts.

While numbers could continue to climb, lab testing has found more white-tailed deer than normal have been infected with either bluetongue or epizootic hemorrhagic disease, known as EHD.

Tens of thousands of public school students in Washington state returned to classes this month in school buildings judged to be at risk of collapse in a strong earthquake. A new report to the state Legislature prepared by state geologists and a structural engineering firm gave the lowest possible seismic safety rating to more than 90 percent of the school buildings assessed in a selective statewide survey.

Rebecca White

Inland Northwest healthcare providers are expecting a new surge of cases in the weeks following holiday gatherings on Labor Day weekend.

Spokane Regional Health District Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez said regional hospital capacity is already stretched at about 90%, and the community is contending with the more infectious Delta Variant.

Courtesy of

Monoclonal antibodies have become a more common remedy for those who have tested positive for Covid and who could become vulnerable to some of its more severe symptoms. But where you can receive that treatment has been limited to hospitals and doctors' offices.

Courtesy of Providence Health Care

Many eastern Washington hospitals are being strained by having to care for Covid patients. 

It's not quite as dire as the situation facing north Idaho hospitals, which are rationing resources.

Courtesy of Kootenai Health

North Idaho is now in a "crisis standard of care"  and state health officials warn that the rest of the state soon could be as well, if more people don’t get vaccinated.

Courtesy of Spokane Indians Baseball Club

Last weekend the Spokane Indians baseball team had its final two home games for the 2021 season cancelled because of Covid concerns with players on the visiting team, the Tri-City Dust Devils.

That was the latest body blow for a team that had a cancelled season in 2020 and, this year, has had to adjust to serving fans in a pandemic-infused world.

But the Indians see some financial support on the horizon if they can only get the attention of Congress.

Courtesy of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

The state of Idaho is soliciting proposals for projects that would lower the phosphorus level in Coeur d’Alene Lake.

Governor Brad Little has set aside $2 million from his Building Idaho’s Future fund.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane Public Schools on Thursday opened the new academic year by welcoming students to two new middle schools, Glover and Shaw. It also opened a new facility for students who don’t feel like they fit in the other high schools.  

The On Track Academy sits within shouting distance of the new Shaw Middle School. It’s officially named the Lisa Mattson On Track Academy after its principal.

The largest state employee union in Washington has reached a tentative agreement over the implementation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The deal, which was announced early Saturday morning, follows a series of bargaining sessions this week between representatives of the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) and the Inslee administration.