NEZ PERCE COUNTY, Idaho — Though Nez Perce County has fewer cases of coronavirus than the rest of North Idaho, it has tallied more than a dozen deaths. That compares to no deaths in Idaho's five northern counties.
One of those deaths includes a woman who passed away at Life Care Center of Lewiston, a nursing home in the county.
Martha Ellis, the daughter of 75-year-old Marsha Ellis, said her mother was doing fine up until recently. Then, she had a cough that wouldn't go away.
Life Care Center staff told Martha that coronavirus cases had been reported in the building, she said.
"The nurse wouldn't tell me a lot. Finally, they told me that she hasn't been tested, but they know that it was in the facility," she said.
Martha said her mother was eventually put on morphine before passing away from the virus earlier this month. She believes a coronavirus test was performed on her mother during her autopsy, as her death certificate lists COVID-19 as the cause of death.
Marsha Ellis is one of 16 people who have died of coronavirus in the county out of 50 cases.
That is compared to 64 cases in both Kootenai and Bonner Counties, and no deaths.
Ada County, the most populated in Idaho, has also reported 16 deaths.
KREM made calls to both the local health district and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare about the high number of fatal coronavirus cases in Nez Perce County, but did not receive a response.
Local newspaper The Lewiston Tribune has reported that at least two other residents at Life Care Center of Lewiston have died amid the coronavirus outbreak at the nursing home.
Life Care Center of Lewiston did not respond to KREM's request for comment on Tuesday.
The center did confirm with The Lewiston Tribune earlier this month that eight residents had tested positive and one had died. Eleven employees had also tested positive at that time.
Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, is considered to be the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. In early March, there were 129 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in connection to the Life Care Center, including 81 residents, 34 staff members and healthcare personnel and 14 visitors, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.
The Benton-Franklin Health District in eastern Washington reported nearly two weeks ago that 93 residents and staff members had contracted coronavirus at Life Care Center in Richland.
While Martha Ellis knows she's not the only person to lose a loved one to coronavirus in Lewiston, her mom's death has still been hard to process.
She wants everyone else to know that coronavirus is serious and shouldn't be taken lightly.
"It wasn't gradual," she said. "She wasn't ready to go."