Idaho and eastern Oregon health care leaders deeply concerned about surge in coronavirus cases –

A quarter of the patients hospitalized at St. Luke’s Magic Valley this week were infected with COVID-19.

BOISE, Idaho — Physicians from some of Idaho and eastern Oregon’s largest health care organizations on Tuesday shared what they’re seeing when it comes to coronavirus cases.

“Healthcare providers across the state of Idaho are deeply concerned about the increase in COVID-19 prevalence within our state and local health districts,” said Dr. Steve Nemerson, the chief clinical officer for Saint Alphonsus.

According to Nemerson, a slight bump in cases at the outset of the pandemic back in March was controlled by the governor’s stay-at-home order. Then, in late June and early July another, bigger surge occurred, but that was controlled by the mask mandates and public pleas for physical distancing. 

Now, we’re seeing another significant uptick.

“What’s most frightening about this is two things: one, the position from where we’re starting,” Nemerson said. “We’re not starting from near zero, we’re starting at a moderate prevalence in the hospital.”

Right now, circumstances are still manageable, but hospitals like Saint Alphonsus don’t know how fast new cases will accelerate. 

“We’re quite concerned knowing that back in July we reached the point where all of our health systems needed to reduce medically-necessary procedures and care in order to accommodate that COVID volume, and we know we’re going to experience the same phenomenon and it may be worse,” Nemerson said.

At St. Luke’s Magic Valley, Jerome and Wood River, Dr. Joshua Kern said during Tuesday’s call that the area is once again becoming a hot spot for COVID-19. 

“We’ve seen a pretty significant rises about 40% average week over week, the last several weeks here in the Magic Valley area,” Kern said. 

The difference this time is that they’re seeing cases from across all of the counties there, not just Twin Falls County, which means more people are in the hospital. 

Just this week, St. Luke’s Magic Valley saw more than 40 patients with COVID-19 in the hospital. That’s about a quarter of the people in the facility. 

“Which for any medical provider that’s just an unprecedented thing to say – that a quarter of the people in your facility are from one infectious disease,” Kern said. 

All of the physicians on Tuesday’s call said we can get control of this new surge in cases, but we need to re-focus our attention on basic preventative measures and as we move into the holiday season, West Valley Medical Center’s chief medical officer Dr. Richard Augustus said the public has to accept that this year will be different. 

For example, Halloween festivities cannot go on as they have in the past.

“Trick or treating is a high-risk event,” Augustus said. “I would not recommend it. Do something different.”

He suggested having a virtual costume contest instead or a movie night or indoor scavenger hunt.

“We’re going to have to look at this for Christmas and Thanksgiving, we cannot give up,” Augustus said. “I know we’re tired, I know it’s hard to wear that mask, but we’ve got to do it.” 

The physicians are also urging everyone to get a flu shot now so they don’t get COVID-19 and the flu. In the Magic Valley, Kern said they are already seeing people get co-infections between coronavirus and influenza.

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