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Idaho Hospitals Barter Beds as Crisis Standards Continue
Friday, October 8, 2021


While the number of new daily COVID cases has decreased nationally, Idaho remains one of eight states that has 15 percent or less of its ICU beds available, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“What we hear every day from the hospitals is that they are almost bartering,” Idaho State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn told reporters at this week’s press conference. “Hey, we’ve got one bed available. Oh, we’ve got two beds over here.”

Idaho remains under crisis standards of care as its number of COVID-19 patients continues to exceed the health care resources available, Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters. And the 15 Idaho children currently in the hospital due to COVID is the highest number the state has seen since the beginning of the pandemic, he added.

The intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Magic Valley was at capacity on Wednesday, according to Dr. Jim Souza, chief physician executive for St. Luke’s. St. Luke’s Health System continues to see an increasing number of in COVID-19 positive ICU patients.

Souza said that St. Luke’s ICU mortality rate is above 40 percent, higher than the 28 percent rate in  December 2020.

“I think we’re way too early to declare that we’ve hit a plateau, or that it’s even a peak at this point,” said Jeppesen, noting that a backlog of some 9,100 COVID cases is keeping health officials from getting a clear picture of COVID trends in the state. “Although it’s encouraging to see some of that data look like it’s trending down, we’ll be looking to see if that’s a trend that’s developing or if that’s a data blip that’s happening.”

  • The state’s hospitalizations have declined somewhat in recent days, but that could be in part due to a high number of deaths recently, Jeppesen said. Idaho surpassed 3,000 official deaths from COVID on Wednesday, and the state had tallied 3,064 by Thursday. The state has tallied nearly 700 deaths since the first of September.

    Blaine County, which has reported 28 positive cases since Monday, reported 19 deaths for months. But in the last few weeks the county has lost a female in her 40s, a male in his 60s and a male in his 80s. None of the three were vaccinated, said Brianna Bodily, public information officer for South Central Public Health District.

    The state lost one individual between ages of 18 and 29 a few days ago. On Wednesday it reported 47 new deaths from the virus—three of them in their 30s, two in their 40s and four in their 50s.

  • Nine-nine percent of 2,800-plus Idaho samples sequenced in Idaho’s laboratory since Aug. 1 involved the Delta variant; during September all involved the Delta variant, said Hahn.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is likely to recommend a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 at a third of the dose adults receive. But that won’t come soon enough for the more than 1,400 Idaho 5-to-7-year-olds infected with the virus last week.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is prepared to begin administering shots for children as early as the first week of November, if the FDA grants approval, said Sarah Leeds, who oversees Idaho’s immunization program.

  • Some 268 patients in North Idaho have been treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies—most of those at the Coeur d’Alene fairgrounds, said Hahn. And 288 Idahoans have received the treatment in Idaho Falls.

    The use of antibody treatments is ramping up slower in St. Luke’s Health System and Saint Alphonsus, she added.

    But while the monoclonal antibody treatments have been successful for those who get them as soon as they’re diagnosed with the virus, they’re not a substitute for the vaccine, she added.

  • Just 52.8 percent of Idaho’s eligible residents are vaccinated—one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. The vaccination rate for Idahoans ages 12 to 15 is 29 percent.

Ninety-five percent of eligible Blaine County residents have been vaccinated, according to the Idaho Health and Welfare. Ada County is next in line at 88 percent and Valley County with 87 percent.


A Boise artist organized a rock painting party to give Idahoans the chance to paint rocks with words of encouragement for health care workers. It’s a small gesture to remind health care workers that the community has their back as they continue to treat those with COVID, Sally Stevens told KTVB. The rocks are being placed outside St. Luke’s hospitals.

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