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ER Doctor Issues Dire Warning
Thursday, April 2, 2020


The patient came into St. Luke’s Wood River needing treatment for a broken bone after a fall.

But it was the white opacities in his lung seen on the X-ray that drew the attention of the doctors treating him. They indicated he had the coronavirus, even though he didn’t have any symptoms.

Researchers now believe that people without symptoms are fueling the spread. New data from Iceland shows half of those who tested positive said they had no symptoms, according to a report from CNN. And in the United States a quarter of coronavirus carriers have no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That has prompted a Blaine County emergency doctor to give a dire warning: Everyone needs to avoid contact with everyone outside their household or we’re not going to stop this thing.

“What I’m seeing is very scary in our emergency department, and that is volumes of patients who are very ill and who we’ve had to admit. Last weekend we admitted four patients in one hour,” Dr. Jim Torres told Dr. Tommy Ahlquist on Ahlquist’s Inspire Excellence podcast this week.

Torres said the beds at St. Luke’s Magic Valley hospital in Twin Falls are being filled up with patients from the Wood River Valley.

“And, if you can imagine, they get their own cases, and Boise gets their own cases filling up the ICUs with sick patients. Then, you know, they potentially could run out of beds, could run out of ICU beds, could run out of ventilators, and then we can get into the crisis mode where New York City is and some of these other big cities. It could happen here.”

Torres said the virus is aggressive and more contagious than the flu and a patient can quickly go from exhibiting mild symptoms to ending up on the critical list. He’s shocked at how many people have very mild symptoms. A third to half have reported a loss of smell or taste.

“You can look really well and have this virus and be giving it to other people who aren’t going to do so well… And there it goes,” he added. “You give it to one person. That person gives it to another person and so on and so on and so on. And that’s what’s happened here in our town.”

“It would be a nightmare if Twin and Boise started getting the number of cases Blaine County is seeing  because there are so many more people in those towns, he said.

“And a lot more people who could be exposed and who could become ill. That would be a disaster.”

Torres’ plea comes at a time when Ketchum Fire Chief is pleading for volunteers—ski patrollers or others—to drive ambulances. Torres’ stable of paid staff members and volunteers has been decimated due to the coronavirus. The fire department has even borrowed ambulances from the City of Carey and elsewhere to keep up with the demand.

The number of cases in Ada County where Boise sits has climbed past Blaine County’s in the past few days.

Idaho reported 672 cases on Wednesday. It was the largest single-day increase, up from 527 the day before.

Blaine County’s numbers climbed from 192 on Tuesday to 256 on Wednesday. It shot past Ada County, which has 226 cases.

Happily, one of those who was included in Blaine County’s tally was a woman who was tested 10 days ago and just confirmed she was positive. She reported that she is survived with only mild symptoms when a previous case of pneumonia could have set her up for a much more serious bout. Her husband, who also has mild symptoms, is self-isolating for seven more days.

Bingham County, home to the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, now has community spread. So does Gem County, the home of the Emmett Cherry Festival. Gooding County and Lewis County reported their first case.

Despite the growing numbers in Blaine County, several Eye on Sun Valley readers reported Wednesday that the traffic through Ketchum seems to have grown, not lessened. And supermarkets are bustling.

“No spacing between people as they come in, and I was told that some people come in every day,” said one woman. “That’s why so many people are still coming down with it. No one is paying attention to the social isolation order. They don't think they will get it, either because they are younger or they still think it’s a hoax. Someone needs to get word to them to stop. It’s just awful.”

Another woman said she was out on a daily walk near Knob Hill Park when she saw several teens and young adults gathered there.

“I considered going up and talking to them about the importance of social distancing, but I didn’t know them and felt uncertain of my welcome,” she said. “How do we educate kids about this and what can happen if they bring it home to their families or others.”


  • Postcards are going to all Blaine county box holders Thursday to urge Blaine County residents to do the census online at www.My2020census.govor call on the phone. The questionnaire does not ask citizenship, said Wendy Jaquet, who is heading up local efforts.

    “Our county response rate was about 4 percent a few days ago. Statewide, it’s 38 percent-plus so, hopefully, the postcards will help,” she added.

  • Blaine County commissioners are modifying the recycling program by curbing the sorting of contaminated materials, sales of recyclable materials until further notice. The collection of recyclable materials curbside at transfer stations and other collection points is continuing.
  • The Hunger Coalition had its busiest day ever on Monday with 430 families showing up at the Bellevue site for food.
  • The City of Ketchum is asking Wood River Valley residents to check on their neighbors while the coronavirus pandemic continues to shutter the valley.

A quick phone call can potentially safe the life of a resident who is elderly or living on their own and possibly too sick to call for help.

Ketchum Fire Chief Bill McLaughlin said his EMS team and the police recently responded to one resident after receiving a 911 call from a neighbor.

“The call to 911 from this conscientious neighbor allowed us to get the patient to the hospital,” he said.

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw agreed: “One act of kindness, as little as a phone call, can help us stay connected and help us check in on the health of those more vulnerable than ourselves.”


  • More than 203,000 Americans had been infected by mid-morning Wednesday as the numbers surged by more than 14,000 in just a few hours Wednesday.
  • The farmer’s market in Boise is searching for a parking lot or empty field so it can spread vendors out. When it does open it will just be vendors offering food, not candlemakers and art dealers. For now, however, the opening has been put on hold.
  • A drive-through food pantry in Boise which had been helping up to 1,100 families a month is now helping nearly 600 families a week.
  • Idaho’s May primary on May 19 will now be done from home by absentee ballot. Officials say that will likely delay the results by one or two weeks.

    The state will send out absentee ballot requests to every registered voter. Voters can request an absentee ballot from

  • Idaho Gives, normally one day of charity to raise money for non-profits throughout the state, will take place over two weeks this year—from Thursday, April 23, to Thursday, May 7.

    Non-profits can register at through Wednesday, April 15.

    More than 11,800 donors contributed $1.89 for 589 Idaho nonprofits during the 2019 Idaho Gives.

  • Walmart is going to start performing temperature checks for employees before they start their shifts. If the temperature is 100 degrees or higher, employees will be asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary. It will also make masks and gloves available for employees.
  • There’s concern that Africa’s mountain gorillas may be at risk from the coronavirus since they are prone to some of the respiratory illnesses that afflict humans. A common cold can kill a gorilla.

    The fear has prompted Congo’s Virunga National Park to bar visitors until June, and Rwanda is suspending tourism and research activities in the national parks that are home to gorillas.

  • Gov. Jay Inslee says the state of Washington will start cracking down on individuals and businesses not complying with the stay-at-home order. First with a warning, then with citations, suspensions of permits and revocations of business licenses.

Inslee said traffic on state highways has been cut by half but people are still taking their vehicles on nonessential trips.

“My suggestions is to put a picture of a nurse on the dashboard of your car and ask yourself, ‘Is this trip really necessary?” he said in a press conference.








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