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St. Luke’s Employees Work Overtime to Test Valley Residents
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Thursday, January 6, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

“Yikes!” said the Bellevue resident as she saw that the number of new COVID cases in the Wood River Valley registered a high of 96 on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

“Now the question is: Who is not sick?!” she said.

There continues to be a surge of new COVID-19 cases in Blaine County, in part fueled by restaurant and hotel workers who came in contact with a lot of valley visitors over the holidays. Family gatherings and travel out of the area also are considered factors in the surge

"Many of these outbreaks were in businesses in the hospitality industry. These staff members serve both residents and visitors," said Brianna Bodily, public information officer for South Central Public Health District.

"These are individuals placed at greater risk of infection because they serve many people every day, and these customers often come from all over," she added. "We saw a similar spike in Blaine County around this time last year for similar reasons, but this year we have Omicron on the horizon threatening to make this spike worse. Fortunately, we haven't heard anything about these cases overwhelming health care. Hopefully it will stay that way. COVID-19 doesn't hit vaccinated people as hard, even Omicron, and so far that seems to be protecting Blaine County from a huge spike in severe illness closely following the case surge."

The highly transmissible Omicron variant is believed to be responsible for a lot of the cases, although the state’s testing of variant is so limited it’s difficult to tell just how big a role it plays, said health officials.

Fewer than 10 percent of COVID-19 cases in the region are tested to determine the strain of a virus, according to South Central Public Health District.

St. Luke’s Wood River is expanding testing hours, thanks to staff members taking on extra shifts, said Joy Prudek, the hospital’s public relations manager. That significantly improves capacity for symptomatic testing, she said, and the hospital is working with other partners, such as South Central Public Health District, to explore additional testing options.

“Our team has once again stepped up and gone above and beyond to take care of the community in a time of need,” said Prudek.  “Many have taken extra shifts to increase testing capacity and with so many in the community becoming ill, our clinics and the Emergency Department have seen increased volumes.

“In addition, with community spread being so high, we are also seeing staff out due to illness, quarantine or schools closing and lack of daycare.  Winter weather has caused additional school closings and can make driving difficult and/or dangerous, which has resulted in some not being able to come to work, as well.” 

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and are experiencing mild symptoms, DO NOT go to the hospital or emergency department for a test. Instead:

COVID-19 Resources - St. Luke's (stlukesonline.org) [linkprotect.cudasvc.com] 

DO GO to the hospital emergency department or call 911 if you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure, sudden dizziness, weakness or fainting.

There is no walk-in care at the Family Medicine Clinic in Hailey, but that clinic does offer same-day appointments for acute care needs. Walk-in care is provided from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at the Physician Office Annex next to the hospital in Suite 109.

Virtual Urgent Care Services are also offered seven days a week for sinus symptoms, earaches, sore throats, eye irritations, urinary tract infections, rashes and more via myChart. To log on, go to https://www.stlukesonline.org/mychart/virtual-urgent-care/mychart-talk-to-a-provider-access-steps

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