A small modular building for COVID-19 testing could be installed on the west side of Gritman Medical Center as colder weather sets in on the Palouse, Gritman President and CEO Kara Besst said.

Besst, Gritman Chief Quality Officer Connie Osborn and Public Health – Idaho North Central District Director Carol Moehrle answered COVID-19 questions Wednesday during a virtual meeting hosted by the Moscow Chamber of Commerce.

Besst said Gritman has yet to finalize plans on how it will test patients during the winter.

Gritman tests people for the coronavirus at two locations — both of which are outside. The main testing site is a drive-through format at the Gritman Martin Wellness Center and the other is in the Gritman Emergency Department parking lot.

Besst said the modular building could take the place of the two testing sites.

“What we’re looking at is kind of the flow of the patients and so essentially combining what’s being done at the Martin Wellness Center and in our ED parking lot, and just moving it right in that area (of the ED),” Besst said.

Moehrle said she hopes PH-INCD can reveal COVID-19 testing data, such as new cases, by zip code in the next few weeks. Currently, the district releases new data by county.

She said the district is getting closer to at least separating out cases in Moscow and Lewiston from their respective counties.

Some small towns have one zip code and may not have a large enough population to protect people’s health information when releasing COVID-19 data, she said. Moehrle said the district is extremely cautious about confidentiality and protected health information as it relates to COVID-19.

“We’re trying really hard not to be able to pinpoint specific people in the data,” Moehrle said.

There have been 845 cases of COVID-19 in Latah County, including 821 confirmed and 24 probable cases, according to the district’s website. The district has reported no deaths.

Moehrle said the district needs to receive an official death certificate with COVID-19 listed as an identified cause of death for it to report a coronavirus-related death. She said death certificates are registered at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare before they are reported to public health districts.

Therefore, Moehrle said the district could report a death two weeks or longer after the death occurred, depending on how long the state process takes. She said COVID-19 deaths are counted in the county in which the deceased person lives — not where they are treated when they die.

Moehrle said the district monitors sucide rates. She said calls to the state suicide hotline and other suicide services have definitely increased since the pandemic started and they continue to increase.

She said isolation has been detrimental to people’s physical and mental health.

“The data has shown this pandemic has been really difficult on most people,” Moehrle said.

She recommended people walk outside and take in fresh air to keep active.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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