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Magic Valley sees another COVID-19 outbreak. Why doctors say this time around is different

Posted at 5:44 PM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 10:13:44-04

MAGIC VALLEY — Blaine County gained national attention at the beginning of the pandemic after being considered one of the nation's first hotspot for COVID-19. Still, St. Luke's doctors say even during that time, they did not have as many positive cases in their hospital as they do now.

"We have actually needed to call in support from physicians in Boise because we've had enough patients in the hospital that the unprecedented step of having to get support from an outside facility is occurring," Joshua Kern, Vice President of Medical Affairs for St. Luke's Hospital, said.

For the last several weeks, the Magic Valley has seen a 40% increase each week in positive COVID-19 cases, and as of right now, 25% of St.Luke's Magic Valley's patients are COVID-19 positive, something they say is very unusual.

"We started this week with over 40 patients with covid in our hospital, which was about a quarter of the total census," Kern said, "Which for any medical provider that's just an unprecedented thing to say that a quarter of the people in your facility are from one infectious disease."

And although the Magic Valley has experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in the past, they say this time around is more concerning because of where the outbreaks are occurring.

"The majority of the cases are not just in Twin Falls county. In earlier outbreaks, it was centered in the higher urban dense area, but what we see now is a pretty high number of cases in all of the areas that St. Luke's Magic Valley treats," Kern said.

Not only are they seeing an increase in patients, but the hospital has also seen the first case of reinfection in the Magic Valley. The Idahoan first contracted COVID-19 in March and was reinfected this month.

"Some of the concern about this virus is that it does not seem to give permanent immunity. We are seeing around the world re-outbreaks fiveish months after initial outbreaks," Kern said.

They urge people to continue to wear masks and social distance, especially with flu season approaching.
"There's a lot of reasons we need to continue to protect ourselves to keep our health systems from being overwhelmed," Kern said.