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Hispanic Population Feels the Impact of COVID Disproportionately
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Herbert Romero left, and others in the Wood River Valley Hispanic community worked to rally support for St. Luke’s mobile vaccination clinics.
   
Thursday, November 18, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Idaho’s Hispanic/Latinx population is disproportionately represented among those dying of COVID, State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn told reporters during the state’s weekly COVID briefing.

COVID is the leading cause of death for the state’s Hispanic population, whereas it’s the third leading cause of deaths for the general public.

The average age of death among Hispanics was 71.5 in 2020, compared to 79.6 for the general population. Now, in 2021, it’s 64.6 for Hispanics, with 72.7 years of age for the general population.

Heather Gagliano, a registered nurse, has been volunteering with the Idaho Immunization Coalition, which has been taking listening and vaccine clinics to rural parts of southern Idaho since early summer.

She said the most successful outreach efforts to Hispanics have been those in which the coalition partnered with trusted organizations in the communities. Prior to the vaccine clinics, Gagliano and others would hand out flyers and go door to door, answering people’s questions about vaccines in conversations that sometimes lasted a half-hour.

“The top concern was: Is the vaccine safe? We know it’s very safe,” said Gagliano.

Gagliano said she was also able to assure people that the vaccine was safe for pregnant women and those with Type 2 diabetes.

“Some people were afraid of needles so we shared how they could calm themselves,” she added.

In one community, Gagliano said, people were concerned because they’d heard someone had passed away after getting a vaccine. It turned out that the person was unvaccinated and had died from COVID-19.

“After people got vaccinated, they seemed to have a confidence that came over them, and they called others to get vaccinated,” she said.

A REGIONAL APPROACH TO CRISIS STANDARDS OF CARE?

A decline in the number of new COVID cases and hospitalizations in the state is beginning to relieve some of the pressure on medical providers. But the caseload is still high enough that Idaho hospitals need to remain in crisis standards of care, Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said.

That said, the decline is allowing hospitals to prepare to perform procedures that had been put on hold, such as open-heart surgeries, hip replacements, gall bladder surgeries and cancer treatments, said Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch.

“We know (delayed procedures) are in the thousands. It’s a large number. For those patients that are impacted, that’s uncomfortable,” said Jeppesen.

Jeppesen said that some parts of the state may be able to exit crisis standards of care before others. The Panhandle and North Central health districts activated crisis standards a week ahead of the standards being activated statewide on Sept. 16. And North Idaho continues to be the hardest hit with a test positivity rate of 15.5 percent, compared with a test positivity rate of 9.2 percent statewide.

Jeppesen said individual hospitals do not have to operate under crisis standards if they are not dealing with scarce resources, such as lack of staff, equipment or space for treatment.

“Coming out of crisis standards of care, we could be regional and, if we go out of crisis standards of care and run into trouble in the future, we could go back into crisis standards of care as needed,” he said.

PROMISING TREATMENTS

Idaho health officials are awaiting two new therapeutic drugs expected to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. One is a “groundbreaking” antiviral medication taken orally that’s been shown to prevent hospitalizations, said Hahn.

The other is a monoclonal antibody mixture that can prevent transplant recipients, those receiving treatment for cancer and others with suppressed immune systems from becoming ill with COVID in the first place.

“We know vaccines do not work as well with these people,” said Hahn. “This treatment can prevent hospitalizations or sickness for up to six months or longer. It’s not a replacement for vaccines but a supplement.”

CHILDREN LINE UP FOR VACCINE

As of Tuesday, 8,667 Idaho children between 5 and 11 have received the children’s dose of Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Tom Archie was among the first to begin offering children’s vaccines locally. St. Luke’s Clinic in Hailey  will offer a vaccine clinic for those 5 through 11 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, with service dogs to comfort children who might be anxious. Appointments should be scheduled through the hospital’s myChart online portal.

In Ketchum, the Valley Apothecary is offering vaccines for children, as well as adults. Walk-ins may receive vaccines between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

Parents seeking vaccinations for youngsters may also schedule them at South Central Public Health District’s Bellevue office by calling 208-788-4335.

Although young children now have the option of getting vaccinated, this is not the time to be removing face mask requirements in schools, as the vast majority of children remain unvaccinated, Hahn said. Most Idaho counties still have high transmission. Holiday gatherings and more indoor activity due to cold weather also are reasons for concern, she added.

“If we see more and more counties with low transmission rates, we’ll be able to have a conversation about dropping masks requirements,” she said. But that conversation is a complicated one, including a look at whether there are new variants, what the vaccination rate is, she added.

BLAINE COUNTY IMPROVING

Idaho medical providers have administered 172,939 booster shots and third shots for the immunocompromised to date.

Idaho’s positivity rate has declined for the eighth straight week but at 9.2 percent, it’s still above the 5 percent target. The number of daily new cases has been in the 600s the past week—about half what it was a couple weeks ago.

Blaine County reported 26 new cases in the past seven days ending Monday, Nov. 15. That averages out to about 3.5 new cases a day, down from what it has been.

Just under 98 percent of Blaine County residents 12 and older have been vaccinated according to the Idaho’s COVID Dashboard.

MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY TREATMENT CENTER OPENS

A monoclonal antibody treatment center capable of treating up to a hundred people every week has opened at 3115 Sycamore Drive in North Boise. The antibodies attach to the virus preventing it from infecting cells.

The treatment is given through an intravenous infusion or IV and has been shown to reduce COVID deaths and hospitalizations by up to 70 percent, provided it’s administered within 10 days of the onset of symptoms.

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