MAGIC VALLEY — The rise in COVID-19 cases in Twin Falls County has created backlogs and delays for the South Central Public Health District's disease investigative team.
Back in September, the team saw around 60 COVID-19 cases a day, all of which they were able to investigate.
"Which means we were able to reach every person that we believe was likely exposed to COVID-19. Now we're getting more than 200 cases a day," Brianna Bodily, SCPHD Public Information Officer said.
Those 200 cases are in Twin Falls County alone, and the amount of new cases a day is making it nearly impossible to keep up.
Two weeks ago, SCPHD said the investigative team would have to triple their staff to keep up with demand, but they believe they're beyond that point and even those efforts wouldn't be enough.
"You can't triple a workforce overnight. That takes not just weeks, but sometimes it can take months with the training and finding applicants that are qualified. We are looking at a situation right now where every day, we have more and more people who will never be contacted," Bodily said.
Contacting each person and investigating each case is essential because it helps slow the spread of the virus and also helps medical officials identify any trends.
"This gives us an idea of where we need to target our messaging and who we need to help. Is there a cultural issue? Is there an issue with getting accurate resources or accurate information," Bodily said.
St. Luke's Magic Valley had to turn patients away last weekend and send them to other hospitals because of the recent surge in cases. For a 12-hour period, the hospital was unable to admit any new patients.
1/4 of @StLukesHealth Magic Valley patients are COVID19+. Twin Falls will consider ordinance mandating face coverings when in public places to try to slow outbreak. PLEASE help show support for this, as we're hearing of large protests against it planned. https://t.co/mxsyx1k4F3— Anita Kissée (@StLukesAnita) November 9, 2020
They say the issue is a lack of staffing, and some nurses have even had to work overtime. Officials are now warning that situation could happen again.
"It's going to be ongoing. I'm quite certain there will be points during this week when we will be on diversion. There's been a period where we're like, 'no, we can't take patients from surrounding hospitals.' Normally we would take those patients because we are a regional medical center, but the volumes have just been too high," Joshua Kern, Vice President of Medical Affairs for St. Luke's Health System, said.
Medical officials continue to urge everyone to take proper safety precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing.
"We can control the virus better than we've been doing. We had COVID here all through the summer, but we had much fewer outbreaks going on, much less spread of the virus in the community. We need the community to step up and wear a mask and start avoiding social settings where they might spread the virus," Kern said.