MAGIC VALLEY, Idaho — While COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationally, the Magic Valley is seeing the opposite. Cases are dropping significantly, and health officials say it may be partially because the Magic Valley had a surge in cases back in September.
"I think the big surge that we saw through September happened earlier here in the Magic Valley than it did in a lot of places," Joshua Kern, Vice President of Medical Affairs for St. Luke's Magic Valley, said.
Since late October, St. Luke's Magic Valley had to send pediatric patients to Boise in order to use the pediatrics department to treat COVID-19 patients. With the decrease in the amount of COVID-related hospitalizations, the hospital resumed normal operations.
In addition to already experiencing a surge, the South Central Public Health District says the decline is also due in part to the public following social distancing guidelines and mask protocols.
Cases declined in December but were still high compared to the summer and spring months. They also say hospitals are reporting improvements in their overall impacts from COVID-19.
"Our overall patient numbers are down as well so from a staffing and space standpoint, we are doing well. We are opening a lot of surgical procedures that we have paused and reopening the pediatrics floor because we feel like we have space and staff to do all of that," Kern said.
Even though the Magic Valley already saw a surge in cases, most of the community still has not contracted the virus, according to St. Luke's.
"Maybe, and this is an estimate, maybe around 25% of the community got the virus. We probably still have upwards of 75% of the community that has not seen the virus," Kern said. "What we still see is a lot of people who have not been infected, and there's still a lot of reasons why we need to maintain all the precautions we've been recommending all along."
They say at the peak, St. Luke's had around 60 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Now they have about 30 patients.
"Certainly the other factor is we are starting to get vaccination rolled out, and that will again start to decrease the possibility of spreading the virus in the community at least a little bit," Kern said.
Health officials continue to urge the community to take the proper safety precautions.