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Kootenai Co. Sheriff addresses 'fake news' over COVID-19 outbreak

Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said during the press conference that there are no plans to close the state of Idaho’s borders or to shut I-90 at Stateline.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office hosted a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss the decision to issue an emergency declaration due to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sheriff Ben Wolfinger along with other county leaders and health experts also addressed false information that has been circulating on social media and steps people can take to protect themselves.

Wolfinger said during the press conference that there are no plans to close the state of Idaho’s borders or to shut I-90 at Stateline. He said his office fielded calls and messages from concerned citizens who were believing “fake news.”

“The real news will come out of this office,” Wolfinger said.

On the sheriff's office Facebook page, the agency referenced a video that was posted by John Grimm, a candidate running for Kootenai County Sheriff. In the video, Grimm made claims of a "level five quarantine of Washington state." He also said he'd heard rumors of interstate travel ending.

In a statement, he said he was referencing the Washington State Health Department Chart and apologized for not being clear. Grimm also said he didn't mean to imply that Washington would be shut down.

Wolfinger said his office received extra calls from people wondering if the rumors were true.

He said the hospital, health district and the sheriff’s office are all working together to have a consistent message.

Kootenai Health said between 50-60 people have been tested at the hospital each day.

Wolfinger encouraged people to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for the latest information on how to protect yourself from the virus and how to help stop the spread.

Other health officials stressed that while Kootenai County does not have any confirmed cases, the county is prepared. Panhandle Health said it is awaiting a fair amount of test results that should be coming down/available later Monday night or Tuesday. They want citizens to know they are not in panic mode and they should remain calm during this time.

Panhandle Health has a COVID-19 hotline at 1-877-415-5225 that is open Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

They stress that if you have symptoms, you should call your primary care provider to determine whether or not you need to be tested for COVID-19.

Latah County also issued a state of emergency Monday to address concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. 

Idaho confirmed COVID-19 cases overview 

  • There are two confirmed COVID-cases in Ada County. One is a woman in her 50's who traveled to New York City for a conference. She was Idaho's first confirmed case, had mild to moderate symptoms, and is recovering at home. The second case is a man in his 50's under self-isolation and recovering at home. He had "travel-related acquisition" and same "shared risk exposure" to the first Ada County case. Both cases did not require hospitalization. 
  • Idaho's South Central Public Health District announced two confirmed cases on Saturday. One is a woman in her 50s in Blaine County. The same health district (based out of Twin Falls) said the second case is a woman over age 70. She is currently hospitalized and recovering. It's unknown how she caught COVID-19. It was revealed on Monday afternoon that the woman is in Blaine County.
  • A confirmed case in Eastern Idaho's Teton County is a woman under the age of 60 who had close contact with a COVID-19 case in a neighboring state. There does not appear to be any community spread. The woman is at home and recovering with mild symptoms. 
  • As of Monday, March 16, 270 people have been tested in Idaho at state and private labs. Thirty-one people are still being monitored.

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