Hospitals warn of consequences of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases

Posted at 3:32 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 17:36:22-05

Hospitals across the state say they're scrambling to keep up with record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Ten more Idahoans were reported dead on Monday due to COVID-19-related causes, including a Bonneville County woman in her 40s. She is the 15th person in their 40s to die of the disease in Idaho.

A total of 983 new confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported statewide Monday and 175 new probable cases for a total of 1,158 new cases. Idaho’s COVID-19 death toll now sits at 773 people.

On Monday, St. Luke's Health Systems did the most COVID-19 test it's ever done: more than 1,500 with a 23% positivity rate.

Hospitals across the state warn their projections show we could be facing what they call the worst-case scenario within two months if the community doesn't start taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

"We're expected to double the number of hospitalized COVID patients by Christmas, and triple within the next two months," said Dr. Steven Nemerson, the Chief Clinical Officer of Saint Alphonsus Health System.

The hospitals say those projections don't account for an expected uptick in cases because of holiday travel. They warn if those numbers continue to rise, they could be forced to go into crisis protocols and ration care, which means assessing those needing critical care and making decisions on who gets treatment.

"They're scored against other patients that might need that critical care bed," explained Dr. Jim Souza, with St. Luke's Health System. "The individual with the greatest chance of survival and years of survival is allocated the resources."

As Idaho News 6 has reported, St. Luke's hospitals have already had to put a 6-week pause on certain elective surgeries and procedures because of the pandemic.

Hospitals across the state say their staff are exhausted.

"Those that are able to work that have not contracted COVID in the community, they are exhausted," Nemerson said. "They are working longer shifts than they normally would and they're cross covering for each other."

The hospitals say they're doing everything they can, but they need the community's help.

"We can not be good stewards of this problem, this pandemic, and provide the best care possible for our communities without our community's help," said Dr. Terry O'Connor, a St. Luke’s Wood River Emergency Physician and the Blaine County/Sawtooth Regional EMS Director.

The hospitals are hopeful a vaccine is on the horizon, but say the distribution of a vaccine would still take several months. In the meantime, they're asking the public to "buckle down" and do their part to prevent the spread.

"COVID is so contagious and so widespread that we're asking the community to do what we've been doing for my entire career and every healthcare worker already does: please. We'll wear our masks to protect you, so wear your masks to protect us," said Rachel Thain, a St. Luke's Respiratory Therapist.