TWIN FALLS — With Thanksgiving around the corner, health officials are issuing a last-minute plea for people to stay home and celebrate with immediate family rather than going out and potentially being exposed to COVID. The advisory comes as hospitals continue their daily struggle of capacity with fears of it increasing after the holiday.
The South Central Public Health District has found that many residents have contracted COVID within their households due to contact with a family member or friend that didn't know they were infected. This adds an extra layer of concern as many homes are opening their doors to relatives.
Public Informations Officer for the South Central Public Health District, Brianna Bodily, said, "Several days before they got tested, they thought they had a cold. Now I know that those cold-like symptoms could be caused by many things. By the flu, by an actual cold, by allergies. But it is really crucial at this point in time, especially as people start gathering. If you do not feel well, you stay home."
There is also a concern for people who may have been exposed earlier and do not display symptoms. Allowing for a false sense of security and potentially infecting others at the dinner table.
Before this Thanksgiving Holiday, hospitals were already being forced to make numerous changes to their daily operations to combat the consistent struggle of being at or near full capacity.
Assistant Medical Director for St. Luke's Urgent Care, Dr. Martha Taylor, said, "We have now paused elective surgeries until the first of the year. We've had many days and evenings where, at least, St. Luke's Magic Valley has had to be on diversion for admissions. Meaning if you're a pediatric patient, an intensive care patient, you may not necessarily be able to stay here."
Hospitals all over Idaho are experiencing the problem of possibly having to turn patients away. Typically, Idaho patients needing treatment would be sent to Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Utah has already stopped admitting Idaho patients, and hospitals in Oregon and Washington are in the same boat as Idaho.
If hospitalizations do increase after Thanksgiving, which health experts are anticipating, doctors may face very tough decisions in the following weeks. Especially around Christmas time and the New Year, where people will most likely want to be with family or friends again.
"As callous as it sounds, we could be forced into a corner of having to rank order the severity of patients that could potentially all be admitted. But if you have three beds for ten patients, how do you choose? And that is a decision, no physician wants to make," said Taylor.
For those who choose to have a larger Thanksgiving, health officials are encouraging people to take as many safety precautions as possible, like social distancing.
"Limit your social interactivity with other people, talk to them, fine, but wear a mask, and stay six feet away. Those kinds of things will still help protect you, even if you choose not to follow the public health guidance for this holiday," said Bodily.