Gov. Inslee: Lax mask, vaccine policies in Idaho are ‘jeopardizing’ Washington hospitals

Sep 29, 2021, 3:54 PM
Gov. Jay Inslee, Idaho...
Gov. Jay Inslee meeting with health officials in Spokane County. (Twitter)

Gov. Jay Inslee continued to express frustration on Wednesday with the influx of COVID-19 patients flooding into Washington from Idaho.

Idaho’s medical crisis is ‘becoming our problem’ in Washington

During a visit to Spokane, Inslee revealed that “there are as many as 30 patients a day more than we typically would have coming from Idaho.” This is while Washington hospitals have been forced to delay procedures due to issues with overcrowding and staff shortages. That includes Providence Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, which has “delayed care in over 2,000 people who need surgery,” according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Getz.

For the second time in as many weeks, Inslee placed some of the blame at the feet of Idaho’s more lax policies regarding masks and vaccines.

“We care about people’s lives in Idaho, but I have to tell you as governor of Washington, it is frustrating that politicians in Idaho are not helping on this subject,” he said. “Idaho is not pulling their share of the load here, their politicians’ failure to act is jeopardizing my community in Spokane, and I am not happy about that.”

All of Idaho recently went into crisis standards of care, a medical designation typically issued during a disaster event when there are not enough resources to care for everyone with serious medical needs. The state currently has the eighth highest rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the entire nation, and the sixth highest rate of hospitalizations. Idaho also has the third lowest rate of fully vaccinated residents, currently sitting at 41%.

Also voicing concerns on Wednesday was state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah.

“If we as Washingtonians are not able to get access to health care resources and it’s happening because of any state, that is something we’re going to need to be looking at more cautiously,” Dr. Shah said during a Department of Health briefing.

Inslee, Idaho Gov. Brad Little clash over ‘clogging’ of Washington hospitals

Meanwhile, Idaho Gov. Brad Little has been vocal regarding his opposition to mask or vaccine requirements.

“I have resisted putting in place statewide mask mandates and vaccine mandates all along because COVID-19 mandates from high levels of government do not work to change behavior in places where people hold fiercely independent values,” he said in a recent blog post. “Idaho has leaned on a more localized approach with these decisions, consistent with the law.”

Despite that, Dr. Getz issued a plea to “our neighbors” in North Idaho to at least have children mask up while in classrooms.

“I think putting masks on in school is not a big thing to ask,” he said on Wednesday.

Little also directly addressed Inslee last week, claiming that while the Washington governor “blames Idaho, Spokane County and the surrounding area on his side of the border continue to be hot spots for virus activity and the lowest vaccination rates in Washington.”

Spokane County — which has been among the Eastern Washington counties receiving Idaho’s overflow hospital patients — currently has nearly 48% of its total population fully vaccinated, along with over 57% of its eligible residents over the age of 16.

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Gov. Inslee: Lax mask, vaccine policies in Idaho are ‘jeopardizing’ Washington hospitals