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'Just overwhelming': Primary Health seeing record number of patients, near 50% test positivity

Primary Health Medical Group building front
Posted at 3:00 PM, Jan 14, 2022

Primary Health is seeing a record number of patients seeking Covid-19 testing every day with increasing positivity rates as omicron surges in Idaho.

Primary Health CEO and pediatrician Dr. David Peterman said the health system is currently testing more than 2,000 people a day with a positivity rate near 50%. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's goal has long been to remain under 5% positivity.

Alongside the increase in demand for services is a decrease in staffing capacity.

Primary Health has about 600 employees. 54 were out sick on Friday alone, either positive for COVID-19, experiencing symptoms, or awaiting their own test results.

Related: COVID-19 surge threatens to overwhelm some primary care offices

"We're disheartened. Our job as front-line workers is to see everyone, treat them, test them, and keep them out of the hospital," Peterman said. "The numbers are just overwhelming. We don't have enough staff."

Peterman said about 97% of Primary Health employees are vaccinated and none have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in this current surge.

Positive cases among Primary Health employees have been traced back to exposure outside of the workplace, Peterman said.

Related: 3 Saint Alphonsus Urgent Care Clinics temporarily closed on weekends, other clinics reduce hours

To keep up with the number of staff out sick, Primary Health closed four urgent care clinics Friday and will close seven this weekend.

Although many patients testing positive for COVID-19 during the omicron surge are seeing mild cold-like symptoms, Peterman urges Idahoans to look at the bigger picture.

"When we get to the point that Primary Health can't see you because you have chest pain or a follow up on your hypertension, now it affects you," Peterman said.

The best way to slow the increasing spread of omicron is to wear a mask indoors and around other people whenever possible, Peterman said.

"Symptoms, for you, may be mild for omicron but the cascading effects impact the health care system," Peterman said. "We, as a community, need to think beyond ourselves and protect others."