Regional News

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Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

Idaho school districts have resumed in-person instruction, but many are struggling to stay open to due the rampant spread of the Delta variant and labor shortages.

In a briefing to the Idaho Board of Education, Andy Grover, the executive director of the Idaho School Administrators Association, said eight school staff members have died of COVID-19 this year. He said many workers have also left for hiring bonuses and higher wages in fast food.

Idaho Public TV screenshot

Former Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger has yet to turn himself in and no arrest has been announced, fifteen days after a warrant was issued on felony rape charges.

Much needed Northwest wildlife projects could get a boost from the federal infrastructure package.

The U.S. House is expected to vote on the bill Sept. 27, but uncertainty is building as to whether the House will approve the package, which includes at least $1.6 billion for state and local governments and tribes to start wildlife projects.

Governor Jay Inslee Extends Bridge Eviction Moratorium

Sep 23, 2021

Governor Jay Inslee announced this Thursday he is extending the bridge eviction moratorium until the end of October.

“We did not think it made sense to end the moratorium while we had millions of dollars sitting in our pockets not distributed to these tenants,” Inslee said.

He said he hopes by the end of October, local governments will have had enough time to process applications for rental assistance. 

Under the bridge moratorium, landlords can’t evict tenants if they have applied for rental assistance and and have responded to a request for mediation.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

An anti-abortion church known for holding loud church services outside of Spokane’s Planned Parenthood Clinic will no longer be allowed to protest outside the clinic’s doors after a judge granted a permanent injunction against the group.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho argued the group’s noise level was violating a state statute barring people from interfering with or disrupting care at a healthcare facility, according to a news release from the healthcare non-profit. On Wednesday, a judge agreed.

Washington State Department of Agriculture

A new Asian Giant Hornets nest was eradicated this Thursday in northwest Washington.

Asian Giant Hornets are an invasive species that can destroy a honey bee nest in a matter of hours. Nests have been found in Canada, and today’s discovery was the fourth found in Washington.

Karla Salp, a spokesperson for the Washington state Department of Agriculture, said one queen, several worker bees and larva were found in the nest.

“We were able to eradicate the nest before they produced any reproductives that could go on to start new nests,” she said.

Pediatrics Cases Concern Kootenai Health Officials

Sep 23, 2021
Courtesy of Kootenai Health

[This story first aired on the radio on September 10.]

Kootenai Health in Coeur d'Alene is seeing so many patients with Covid that providers are rationing care. The pediatrics department there is projecting that the high number of serious Covid cases will soon have an effect on children who need care.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

A slate of environmental groups are asking Governor Jay Inslee to appoint new, reform-minded leadership at the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The requests come in the wake of an audit that recommends cultural changes.

In a letter sent Wednesday, a dozen environmental groups called on Inslee to fill two positions in the nine-member commission that leads the state agency.

Courtesy of the University of Washington

Many of the college students in the Northwest have already returned for the new academic year. Eastern Washington University began on Wednesday. The University of Washington starts a week from Thursday.

At the UW, faculty members such Paula Nurius in the Department of Social Work are interested to see how in-person instruction during a pandemic is going to work. She'll report on her research Thursday evening during a webinar open to the public.

When a moving box full of negatives arrived on Jodi Zybul's doorstep, she wasn’t entirely certain what she might find inside, or whose memories she might rummage through.

She’d scanned through her own family’s history for the past two years: negatives her grandfather had taken in 1914 and boxes of photos her grandmother had saved from the 1980s.

Courtesy of Community Colleges of Spokane

The state of Washington plans to open two community Covid testing sites in Spokane, but not immediately.
Spokane Interim Health Officer Francisco Velazquez says a private company called Discovery Health, based in the Puget Sound area, will operate them. The new drive-through venues will be located at Spokane and Spokane Falls Community Colleges.

Washington Employment Security Department

16,800 more jobs in Washington were filled in mid-August, a strong showing but a slowdown from June and July. Statistics from the state Employment Security Department also show the state’s unemployment rate has settled around five percent, lower than the peaks of 2020 but slightly higher than pre-pandemic averages.

The overcrowded hospitals we've been telling you about for weeks are having ripple effects out into the community -- some you could predict and some which are a little more startling. Take for example a fire that gutted a house in Ocean Shores or expensive airlifts from Leavenworth, Washington.

Screenshot of Washington Smoke Blog

The rain and cooler temperatures of the last two weeks are bringing an end to Washington’s wildfire season and lessening the chance of region-wide smoke events.
Ranil Dhammapala, an atmospheric scientist at the Washington Department of Ecology and one of the contributors to the Washington Smoke Blog, says, during the peak of wildfire season, smoke generally bypassed western Washington, but made a significant impact in localized parts of eastern Washington.

In an unusual case of a high-ranking Washington statewide office holder calling into question the official conduct of his predecessor, the office of Democratic Lt. Gov. Denny Heck has flagged for state ethics investigators what it calls “suspicious financial activity” during former Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib’s final year in office.

The allegations have ensnared two former Habib staff members, including one former senior staffer, in an ongoing ethics investigation, even as the situation threatens to devolve into a case of intraparty, internecine strife rarely seen in Washington.

Avista Utilities

Fall is normally when utility assistance providers see a wave of requests for help paying winter heat bills.

This year, they expect an even larger barrage starting when Governor Jay Inslee’s moratorium on utility shutoffs expires next week.

Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners Director of Community Action, Carol Weltz, said the non-profit has enough federal aid relief to handle every anticipated request, but said staff can only process so many at a time.

Covid Surge May Have Peaked; Watch Out For Flu Season

Sep 20, 2021
Courtesy of CDC

Health care officials say the Covid surge in Washington may have hit its peak statewide, a few weeks before the flu season will officially begin. 

Dr. Steve Mitchell from the Washington Medical Coordination Center in Seattle says about 1,500 Covid-positive people are receiving hospital care today [Monday]. That’s down 200 since a peak reported September 9.

Courtesy of 2nd Harvest

As aid programs expire, service providers say they expect to see more people in need, even if they do manage to find jobs.

Pandemic Education At Western Governors University

Sep 20, 2021
Courtesy of Western Governors University

The pandemic has forced schools to move their teaching online for safety reasons. But there are education institutions that went online years ago to be more convenient for their constituents.

One is Western Governors University, a non-profit, online college that was created by western governors about 25 years ago to provide a lower-cost alternative to traditional higher education.

National Weather Service, Spokane

Much-needed rain is a welcome sight on forecast maps this weekend. It will help quench wildfires and pare back a region-wide drought. But the National Weather Service says it is unlikely a rainfall deficit will be closed by year’s end.

The Spokane Regional Health District is asking the public to stay out of Newman Lake due to a toxic algae bloom.

Toxic algae blooms are caused by warm temperatures, low water levels and phosphorous.

A common source of phosphorous is lawn, or agricultural fertilizers. They can also be caused by overgrowth of invasive aquatic plant species.

Courtesy of State of Idaho


Four of Idaho’s top elected officials have sent a letter to President Biden, outlining their concerns about his federal vaccine mandate.

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.