First case is confirmed in Kootenai County

| March 20, 2020 1:00 AM

The first case of novel coronavirus in Kootenai County has been confirmed, the Panhandle Health District and Kootenai Health said Thursday.

The individual, a male over 60, is self-isolating in another state and is experiencing mild symptoms.

“The patient is doing well,” said Lora Whalen, PHD director.

This is the first case in the Panhandle and was the 12th in the state - until the south central district reported 12 new cases of its own late Thursday.

The Kootenai County man was first seen by his doctor, who ordered testing based on the man’s clinical and extensive travel history. The man was tested Monday at Kootenai Health and the results from the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories came back positive Thursday morning.

PHD epidemiologists are tracing the man’s whereabouts and contacts. If others are found to have been exposed, health officials will monitor them closely.

“There is no need to panic,” Whalen said. “Now more than ever, it is time for each of us to consider our part, what role we play in stopping the threat of this virus in our community.”

Karen Cabell, chief physician executive at Kootenai Health, said thanks to their early preparation and collaboration with PHD, they made the decision early on to limit the locations collecting test samples.

“We feel fortunate we had this safe testing option in our community so health care providers were protected and the patient got the needed testing and care,” she said.

Kootenai County EMS Chief Chris Way said, “We are not in a crisis mode.”

“I can’t stress that enough. We are not panicking,” he said. “We are relaxed, we are confident in our abilities to manage this crisis and we will continue to prepare and get ready for what is coming.”

He said there is not a mandate that restaurants or bars close and it has not been discussed.

“It is not our plan to force close any businesses,” Way said.

He said contrary to rumors, there is not a public testing center in Kootenai County.

“We want to make sure you all know we are doing everything possible to keep you all safe,” Way said.

There have been about 10,450 cases and 150 deaths in the United States, and 200,000 cases and more than 8,000 deaths worldwide.

Cabell said the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories is being inundated — as of Wednesday, it had conducted about 350 tests. She said that in early March, Kootenai Health was testing two to three patients a day. Recently, it’s been about 150 a day.

Results take a few days and hundreds of tests are pending.

Whalen said about 80% of those who get the coronavirus may have mild symptoms. About 15% may have severe symptoms that may require hospitalization, and 2-5% may have critical illness and could die.

It is the elderly, those in poor physical condition and with other ailments or respiratory illnesses that are most at risk.

To protect them, Whalen reiterated that people wash their hands, cover coughs or sneezes, stay home if they’re sick, work from home if they can, keep their distance from others and avoid crowds. Officials said those who are well have no reason to wear a mask.

Way said they are looking at this as a long-term crisis, noting President Trump said it could continue well into July or August.

“We’re talking about months now at a time and we’ve got to be prepared for this,” Way said.