Regional News

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

Ways to Connect

Help could be on the way to the Pacific Northwest’s infrastructure – which has been tested this summer with heat waves and wildfires.

Spokane Public Radio spoke to Senator Patty Murray about the federal infrastructure packages before Congress now, which have several provisions to address climate change.

Murray says provisions in both infrastructure deals before Congress could address the root causes of those disasters, and help communities build the resilience they need to withstand them.

Gonzaga University

A Gonzaga University commission tasked with making recommendations in the wake of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis has released its report.

Spokane Looks To State For Covid Testing Help

Sep 1, 2021
Courtesy of CHAS Health

Spokane’s health district is asking the state Department of Health for help in re-establishing a community-based Covid testing site here.

The county has had high case numbers over the last several weeks. Interim Health Officer Francisco Velazquez says there’s no sign yet that trend is changing. The case surge has led to an increased demand for testing.

A Washington judge has decided not to stop the way the Klickitat County sheriff handles what he considers dangerous cougars.

The Mountain Lion Foundation, a wildlife advocacy group, sued Sheriff Bob Songer and the county after Songer deputized a handful of hound handlers to track and kill cougars he considers a public safety concern.

Courtesy of Washington Cares Fund

Many are attempting to opt out of Washington Cares, the state’s new taxpayer-funded long-term care program that will take effect next year. In January, employees will start having money taken from their checks. They’ll contribute until they stop working.

The state allows them to withdraw from the program if they have private long-term care coverage.

Idaho Public TV screenshot

Idaho Governor Brad Little says the Gem State’s health care system is close to being overwhelmed because of the growing number of critically ill COVID patients. 

“On a daily call with hospitals this morning [Tuesday], we heard there are only four adult ICU beds available in the entire state, out of close to 400. Our hospitals have converted other spaces to be used as contingency ICU beds. Those are filling up too. Idaho hospitals are beyond constrained," he said.

Courtesy of Spokane County Redistricting Commission

The group tasked with carving Spokane County into five new county commissioner districts has released four maps.

The maps have garnered mixed reviews.

Courtesy of Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox

Patrons who plan to attend performances at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox will now be required to show proof of vaccination – or negative COVID-19 test.

Spokane Symphony Executive Director Jeff vom Saal said during an interview Monday the changes would go into effect September 7.

Covid Hospitalizations Continue To Increase In Washington

Aug 30, 2021
Courtesy of Confluence Health

The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus continues to climb in Washington.

The state hospital association says state figures this morning [Monday] showed 1,570 Covid patients admitted to hospitals, up more than 300 from 10 days ago.

Courtesy of Spokane County Interstate Fair

Healthcare leaders in Washington State say they’re concerned that the region’s healthcare system may not be able to handle any upticks in cases, or injuries, that could be coming if the state and local fairs continue as planned.

Awash in a tsunami of potential new customers, long-term care insurance companies have temporarily halted sales in Washington.

The sudden consumer demand for this relatively obscure form of insurance, and the resulting shutdown of the market, comes as a November 1 deadline looms for Washington residents to purchase a private long-term care plan in order to opt out of a new state-run program.

Spokane County Fire District 9

A Spokane County firefighter was died after he was wounded fighting a brush fire Thursday. 

According to a release from Spokane County Fire District 9 Fire Chief Jack Cates, the fire fighter Cody Traber was an 18-year-veteran of the department.

He previously served Stevens County Fire District 1, the Cheney Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources Arcadia District.

He leaves behind his wife and four children. 

Fairchild Air Force Base

Growing up Lizzie Denton always pictured herself as a nurse.

Now, the 27-year-old is a one of a handful of women pilots stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base. She’s also a soccer coach and Sunday school teacher for children on the West Plains, and said she hopes her story and experience will inspire the next generation of girls.

Rebecca White/SPR

A judge ruled that an initiative that would have barred the Spokane City Council from regulating natural gas and hydropower will not be allowed to appear on the November ballot.

The “Spokane Clean Energy Protection Act” ballot act was sparked in opposition to a draft sustainability plan that called for the city to phase out natural gas hook-ups.

Spokane County Breaks Rockford City Council Race Tie

Aug 26, 2021
Spokane County

The Spokane County Auditor broke a tie for the town of Rockford today.

The race between Rockford town council candidates Ivan Willmschen and Rachelle Arriaga had a little more than 100 votes. The two candidates were tied for second.

Under state law, ties must be broken using a game of chance. Spokane County auditor Vicky Dalton used a milk bottle, and a ball representing each candidate.

Candidate Willmschen’s designated ball fell out of the milk bottle first, making him the winner. He will move onto the general election.

Courtesy of Sarah Benton

Hundreds of people were displaced by the Ford-Corkscrew wildfire that is now about two-thirds contained in southern Stevens County. Some of them are still waiting to return.

One woman who has been allowed to return says the whole experience has been harrowing.

Jeremy Burnham/SPR

Organizers for Spokane’s iconic 3 on 3 tournament, Hoopfest, have canceled the annual event after a spike in new COVID cases and hospitalizations.

According to a release on the event’s website, organizers said they were concerned by the record-breaking hospitalizations over the last few days and the spread of the significantly more contagious Delta variant. This will be the second year the event has been canceled due to the coronavirus.

Courtesy of Tyler LeMasters

A judge ruled that Spokane City Council Candidate Tyler LeMasters' name will not be allowed to appear on the November ballot.

LeMasters is a realtor and former aide to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. He was running against Betsy Wilkerson, a city councilwoman who was appointed to represent the South Spokane City Council District in 2019.

Courtesy of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

Idaho state officials say they want to move quickly on projects that reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Coeur d’Alene. Phosphorus promotes the growth of plants that can be toxic to humans and animals.

An advisory committee appointed by the governor to vet and choose proposals began its work Thursday in Coeur d’Alene.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

As wildfires have burned throughout the Northwest this summer, some forest stands have fared better than others. Managers say that’s thanks, in part, to thinning and prescribed burns, which have made the stands more resilient in the face of wildfire.

Courtesy of Luc Jasmin and Naghmana Sherazi

Spokane County election officials have recounted votes for two close Spokane County races, reaffirming an existing lead and a tie.

Redistricting Commissions Ramp Up Their Activities

Aug 24, 2021
Courtesy of Washington State Redistricting Commission

Spokane County’s redistricting committee is releasing its draft plan for public review Tuesday evening. It’s the latest step in a flurry of activity this fall by the Spokane and Washington state redistricting groups.

Courtesy of the Northeast Tri-County Health District

Hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases in eastern Washington and north Idaho are soaring – and healthcare providers fear that if this trend continues, there will soon be a shortage of both beds and staff to treat dangerously ill patients from both rural and urban communities.

Northeast Tri County Health Officer Sam Artzis said the counties he serves, Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille, have not only approached the high tide mark from last December for hospitalization and new cases.

Courtesy of Northwest Public Broadcasting

Companies in Washington are warning their employees about a new state tax that will be taken from their paychecks beginning the first of next year. That tax will raise money for a new government long-term care plan called WA Cares.
Beginning in 2025, the plan will pay benefits to enrollees who need help with non-hospital-based health care expenses.

Idaho Public TV screenshot

The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled a new law that makes it more difficult to place citizen initiatives on the ballot is unconstitutional.

The law approved by the legislature this year requires initiative sponsors to gather signatures from at least 6% of the registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.

Courtesy of Matreshka Deli

The Spokane Regional Health District this week is sponsoring a series of Covid vaccination clinics. Two of them are targeted at non-vaccinated people in the Slavic and Spanish-speaking communities.

Washington Mask Mandate Goes Into Effect Today

Aug 23, 2021
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Governor Jay Inslee’s order goes into effect today [Monday].

“Restaurants and offices. Shops. It covers everyone in a public-facing setting, regardless of vaccination status. So, in a place that is open to the public, everyone needs to wear their mask in those conditions," he said.

Wikimedia Commons

As drought conditions continue in Washington State, dry conditions and stagnating water are starting to impact Eastern Washington’s White Tail Deer population.

According to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, 50 deer have died outside of Colfax in the last few weeks from two drought related illnesses.

Two diseases are impacting Washington’s White Tail deer population this summer, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease – or EHD and Blue Tongue.

Courtesy of Columbia County Health System

Even though most hospitals in Washington are full, hospital officials don’t anticipate a situation where they’ll need to transfer Covid patients to other states.
Healthcare providers are working together to keep from being overwhelmed.

Courtesy of the Northeast Fire Information Center

The Ford-Corkscrew fire that has burned 15,000 acres in Stevens County is now 14% contained.

Stevens County Fire District 1 Chief Mike Bucy says a rough perimeter has been established around the fire. He likens the current activity to connecting the dots, where some gaps remain in areas with rougher terrain.