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State Official Says It’s Difficult to See Idahoans Struggle with the Virus in ICUs
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Wednesday, August 25, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

One in nine Idahoans have now officially been infected with the coronavirus since the pandemic hit Idaho 16 months ago.

It will continue to grow as the Delta variant spreads throughout the state. Idaho added 1,032 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths on Tuesday. (Blaine County has tallied 26 new cases since Friday for 2,522 official cases).

And that is stressing Idaho’s hospitals.

Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters during a briefing Tuesday that Idaho’s hospitals are “over capacity” and that the state is dangerously close to implementing crisis standards of care, in which physicians will have to decide who gets care and who does not because of limited resources.

In fact, the state requested 235 full-time nurses, respiratory therapists and certified nursing assistants from FEMA and other states on Friday, according to the Idaho Capital Sun. St. Luke's had 319 nursing job openings posted this week. And hospitals are posting openings for volunteers in a variety of positions from housekeeping to medical staff at https://www.volunteeeridaho.com

“The ICU is now the highest it’s ever been at any point in the pandemic,” said Jeppesen, adding that St. Luke's Meridian had converted a cardiac recovery unit to an ICU. “It’s getting harder and harder to find room for ICU patients. We had a call today where a patient needed to come out of a rural setting and we were unable to find an ICU bed.”

Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said he visited an ICU in the Treasure Valley this week and it  was difficult to describe the amount of suffering he saw as he watched patients struggling for their lives.

“We have an answer and the answer is the vaccine,” he said.

Jeppesen said nearly everyone with COVID in Idaho hospitals right now is unvaccinated. But only 53 percent of eligible Idahoans have gotten at least one shot. (Ninety percent of eligible Blaine County residents have gotten vaccinated).

Jeppesen said the state is averaging 33 new cases of COVID per 100,000 people a week—up from a low of 3.3 per 100,000 in July. The test positivity has climbed from 2.8 percent to 12.8 percent.

Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, said his 20 clinics have been overwhelmed with tests and visits to urgent care. Last week Primary Health set a record for patients seeking help at the urgent care with 1,500 people topping the previous record of 1,300 a week earlier. On Monday more than 1,600 people sought care, and the clinics also set a COVID testing record on that day.

The FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, but health officials said they do not yet know if that will spur more Idahoans to get vaccinated.

Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist, said moderately and immunocompromised Idahoans are now eligible for a third shot since many of them did not have as robust a response to the initial vaccine. But she emphasized that the FDA has not approved a booster shot for the general population despite all the media coverage about it.

“The concept is that we probably got very good immunity from (the first two doses). But that immunity is waning or in danger of waning so the booster I designed to boost it back up to where we want it to be.”

Officials said the number of COVID cases is rising in all age groups among children. But the level of increase is highest among the state’s 4 and younger children.

“A grim milestone,” said state deputy epidemiologist Kathryn turner.

Peterman said he is extremely concerned about the children. The number of positive cases among children has increased rapidly at his 20 clinics in the Treasure Valley since early July.

“You can’t get more frightening than that,” he said.

Peterman affirmed that there is no vaccine authorized for those younger than 12. But he said face masks are a second-best option.

“We can stop this in its track right here and now if I wear a mask and you wear a mask,” he said. “Now is the time for parents and children to wear masks.”

 

 

 

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