As Idaho approaches the one-year mark of the first COVID-19 case in the state, St. Luke’s is holding a 24-reflection period starting Friday to honor the almost 1,900 lives of Idahoans that were lost due to coronavirus.
All of the health systems in Idaho were tested like never before over the last year. St Luke's says now in terms of providing care for capacity, they are in good shape. The health system is seeing roughly 10 percent of what it was at the peak of the winter surge.
While this pandemic hard been impactful on everyone, St. Luke’s says there has been a silver lining.
“The silver lining is all of the things we’ve learned. What we’ve learned medically, what we’ve learned in terms of health care delivery and then what we’ve learned way more broadly than that. The tragic thing is the cost for that learning was the suffering and dying, the economic impact and the impacts to health care delivery,” St. Luke’s Chief Physician Executive Jim Souza said.
The state numbers posted daily show Idaho has seen a decline in cases and now even a plateau with daily case numbers around the same each day. According to Souza, this is about 20% to 25% higher than what they were at the end of the last surge in September.
“I’m worried about the variants and my suspicion is that we are probably going to see a variant-driven increase in disease activity," Souza said. “I am really hopeful though that is not going to translate into an increase in hospitalizations and deaths and the reason for that is because of how many of our vulnerable people have chosen to get the vaccine.”
Souza described Idaho’s current state as a race, “variants vs the vaccine,” and encourages members of the community to not throw in the towel yet.
“Don’t have a mission accomplished moment, yet because we haven’t accomplished the mission yet,” Souza said.
With the recent announcement from the CDC about guidelines people who are vaccinated should follow, Souza worries that people will show different behaviors in public spaces and potentially put themselves and others at risk for contracting COVID-19.
While the year was filled with struggles, as many Idahoans got sick, Souza says one of the good things to come from the experience was the selflessness of health care workers.
“When the call was issued, they answered the call, and I won’t forget that in the early days of the pandemic they answered the call despite the fact that we were in a situation where we literally didn’t know, what we didn’t know,” Souza said. “We didn’t know how the thing was transmitted. We didn’t know how to mitigate that. We didn’t know how many people would get sick. We didn’t know how many would die. We didn’t know what treatments there were. We also didn’t know or believe that we could get a vaccine sooner than 18 to 24 months back a year ago and yet healthcare workers stepped up. They stepped up at a time when even their own safety was in question because of the national shortage of PPE and equipment they needed to do their job.”
Throughout the pandemic thus far, frontline workers at St. Luke’s and across the country have been the bridge between patients and family members for either the road to recovery or saying goodbye.
On Friday, St. Luke’s chaplains will lead employees and others observing the moment of silence at noon and bells will ring Saturday to end the 24-hour period of reflection. If you chose to participate, St. Luke’s encourages using the hashtag #IDCOVID19.