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St. Luke's Magic Valley voices concerns over influx of COVID-19 patients

Coronavirus deaths worldwide surpasses 200,000
Posted at 11:01 AM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 11:26:51-05

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — St. Luke's Magic Valley is voicing concerns about an influx of COVID-19 patients into the hospital.

Hospital officials say they had 75 COVID-19 patients in the hospital Wednesday morning--forcing the hospital to divert patients in the Intensive Care Unit temporarily Tuesday night.

Officials also say the hospital was forced to say no to patients from the Elko hospital.

Officials say Treasure Valley hospitals are working to support Magic Valley, but those hospitals are nearing capacity--especially in the ICU's that are full of COVID-19 patients and others who need intensive care.

Idaho recorded 993 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday and 237 new probable cases, for a total of 1,230, as the spread of the virus showed no signs of abating.

Twin Falls currently has no mask mandate. Just this week, the Twin Falls City Council ultimately decided to indefinitely table the proposed mask mandate in a six-to-one vote after nearly five hours of public testimony and heated discussions.

After numerous pleas to impose some type of mask ordinance in the city, St. Luke's Magic Valley was disheartened after hearing the proposed mandate was turned down earlier this week.

"I am a bit disappointed that we didn't come out with an effective mandate, but I'm also really disappointed in how divisive this is for our community," says Arlen Blaylock, Chief Operating and Chief Nursing Officer for St. Luke's. "In our opinion, masks work, distancing works, washing hands, and whatever we can do to get to the point where we can help our community. That's what we would like to do."

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.

The number of cases is so overwhelming CSI students are stepping in to help the South Central Public Health District's COVID-19 caseload.

CSI nursing students are volunteering their time to serve as contact tracers, helping to reduce investigation times while earning some of the essential clinical participation hours required to graduate from the CSI nursing program. This volunteer work has been critical for students, as clinical hours have been severely impacted as local medical facilities have been forced to shut down or implement restrictions due to COVID-19.