North Idaho health system nears capacity as COVID-19 surge worsens. State adds 22 deaths.

Posted at 7:36 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 21:36:21-04

This article was originally published by Rachel Roberts in the Idaho Statesman.

Coeur d’Alene-based Kootenai Health said Wednesday in a news release that a recent surge in COVID-19 cases has put its hospital near capacity.

As a result, Kootenai Health has canceled elective surgeries and will no longer accept patient transfers from other regional hospitals. But the community’s help is still needed.

“It is not our intent to frighten, but rather to inform our community of what lies ahead if the current trajectory continues,” the release reads. “This past winter, it took a total of 58 days for the surge to climb from 28 patients to 87. This time it has taken less than half as long — only 21 days — and the numbers continue to escalate.”

On July 28, Kootenai Health said it was caring for 29 COVID-19 patients in its hospital, with 11 of those patients requiring critical care. On Aug. 4, those numbers grew to 43 and 19, respectively. On Aug. 11, they increased to 73 and 29, and as of Wednesday, there were 85 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including 36 in the ICU.

According to data compiled by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, there were 377 patients hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, including 120 in intensive care, as of Monday. Last winter, the most COVID-19 patients in Idaho ICUs was 122. The state surpassed that record with 127 hospitalized on Sunday.

“Hospital leaders and physicians are critically concerned they will not have the space, equipment and staffing to provide care for everyone in our community who needs hospital care,” the release continues. “This includes COVID-19 patients and patients who require care for other concerns such as heart attacks and injuries from car accidents.”

Kootenai Health cites data from within the community that shows the COVID-19 delta variant is replicating and spreading much faster than the original COVID-19 alpha variant, and causing more severe illness in younger patients with few or no risk factors for complications. Patients age 18-60 represent about 50% of those currently hospitalized for COVID-19 at Kootenai Health, compared to only 20% during the winter surge.

“Kootenai Health and its medical staff have explored every possible option to ensure care is available for everyone who needs it. We are now imploring our community to add their efforts to ours,” the release said. “... Please get vaccinated for COVID-19, wear a mask when out in public, avoid optional large gatherings, practice social distancing and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

“Idahoans have always valued freedom and independence. We also recognize the value of working together as a community to take care of our own. Never were those qualities needed more than now.”

For the second time in the last three days, Health and Welfare reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The state added 1,217 new cases and a whopping 22 deaths to its pandemic total. (There were 23 new deaths, but one was removed from Payette County.) Idaho’s seven-day moving average sits at 715.6 cases per day.

Idaho had not reported more than 20 coronavirus-related deaths in a single day since late January, and the deaths were spread across 13 counties. Kootenai County had the largest increase, with five deaths.

Ada and Canyon counties each added more than 250 new cases, with 291 and 263, respectively. Kootenai County saw an increase of 164 cases.