Thursday, August 13, 2020
St. Luke’s Grapples with Testing Lags, Launches New Dashboard
The Sun Valley Music Festival has included a sanitizing station among other safety protocol for those sitting on the lawn.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020



St. Luke’s Health System is launching a new COVID-19 data dashboard to help inform the community about what is happening within its hospitals related to COVID-19.

The dashboard, which will be launched soon, will go live on St. Luke’s website.

Idaho's coronavirus curve continues to jut upwards thanks to 528 new cases on Tuesday for a total of 19,222 cases. Twin Falls gained 64 new cases on Tuesday for 1,128 all told.

It will provide COVID-19-related statistics and trends, updated daily. Where useful, it will also include rolling averages and trend lines specific only to St. Luke’s Health System only.

Data will be shared about the number of people hospitalized in St. Luke’s Health System for COVID-19 contrasted with the number hospitalized for other reasons. It will share information about how many tests are being conducted and the number of positive results.

Health officials say they hope to add more layers as they get requests from local government, media and the public. Those could include, for instance, the number of intensive care beds and ventilators in use, a breakdown showing data specific to individual hospitals in the St. Luke’s Health System and the average time for testing turnaround.

After being able to turn test results around within a few days, St. Luke’s Health System is again experiencing a significant lag time in getting results back. It’s not a problem that’s unique to St. Luke’s. It’s impacting other local clinics and hospitals across the nation.

Blaine County reported three new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday for a total of 566.

St. Luke’s began sending swabs collected at outpatient sites to Quest on July 13 because of a national shortage on lab supplies used for processing COVID tests. Quest is experiencing such high demand right now that they are backlogged and St. Luke’s is just now starting to see some of those tests come back.

Quest had told hospital officials nationwide it could turn test results around in seven days but has extended it to 10 to 14 days.

“I’m worried people will feel too secure that there haven’t been any new cases in several days or that they will panic if there’s a bump in the event they come back in bulk,” said Joy Prudek, public relations manager for St. Luke’s Wood River.

The problem is the nationwide surge in cases where more than 60,000 Americans are testing positive a day and many more are taking tests. Reagents and other testing supplies are in short supply.

Prudek said health officials are aware that this lag is as frustrating for the public as it is for them.

“Our supply managers and our lab are working diligently to find alternative testing capacity,” said Prudek.

St. Luke’s Wood River is doing its own testing using the Abbott ID Now rapid test for high priority patients, who need a rapid turnaround, as well as pre-op patients and employees.  Not all St. Luke’s hospitals have this test, which offers results in 24 to 48 hours.

The hospital continues to care for COVID inpatients as needed, said Prudek. Those who need a higher, specialized level of care are transferred to St. Luke’s hospitals in Twin Falls or Boise.


Idaho saw its deadliest day since its first case was reported on Monday as 11 deaths were reported in five counties. Three were reported in Ada County, four in Canyon County, two in Kootenai County, one in Twin Falls County and one in Bannock County.

That meant 56 deaths in 13 days. The state has tallied 168 COVID-related deaths as of Tuesday--20 in the past two days and 75 during the month of July. One of the latest deaths involved a person in their 30s--the first under age 40.

Blaine County added three new cases on Tuesday for a total of 566. Twin Falls County had its worst day yet with 64 new cases for a total of 1,128.

It was just over a month ago on June 23 that Twin Falls and Blaine counties had the same number of cases--523, noted Eye on Sun Valley's graph man Paul Ries. Not Twin Falls County has nearly twice as many as Blaine County.

Idaho surpassed 18,000 total cases on Sunday and it surpassed 19,000 on Tuesday with 528 new cases bringing it to 19,222. Forty-two of Idaho's 44 counties have now recorded at least one case of COVID. And Eastern Idaho Public Health, which includes Idaho Falls, says its cases increased more than 360 percent during July.

Some health officials aren’t convinced the worst is over as the United States continues to record more than 60,000 new infections a day.

They fear new wildfires maybe breaking out as others cool. And health officials such as Human and Health Services testing czar Brett Giroir have flagged Idaho as one of the states that look grim, according to Politico.


As schools prepare to reopen, Boise State University has had to back down from a pledge to test its 3,000 dorm students before they move into dorms. Problem is, there are not enough tests to do that due to the recent surge in COVID cases in Idaho and the lack of testing supplies nationwide.

As a result, local health care facilities no longer have the ability to test asymptomatic people.

The Idaho Statesman says the university will instead ask students to be tested in their hometowns, if tests are available there, before moving into campus housing. BSU starts classes on Aug. 24. Students can move in on Aug. 18.


The former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama has issued a prescription to “virtually eliminate” COVID in a matter of weeks “any time we decide to.”

Andy Slavitt tweeted we need to:

Have universal mask wearing.

Keep bars, restaurants, churches and transit closed.

Prohibit interstate travel.

Prohibit travel into the country.

Set up hotels to allow people with symptoms to isolate from their families at no cost.

Impose a 90 percent lockdown, instead of the 50 percent lockdown we had in March, including even many farm workers, truck drivers and health care workers in the lockdown.


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