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Thanksgiving Gatherings Could Push Idaho Hospitals Over The Edge, Health Experts Warn

Marco Verch / Flickr Creative Commons

The holiday season usually brings an uptick in illness — but health officials say this is no normal year. The coronavirus pandemic is in its most dangerous phase yet, and if Thanksgiving gatherings and travel increase cases, hospitals say they could reach maximum capacity by the new year.

St. Luke’s has already paused elective surgeries, and has sometimes had to send intensive care patients elsewhere.

“We could be forced into a corner of having to rank order the severity of patients that could potentially all be admitted,” said Dr. Martha Taylor of St. Luke’s Health System. “But if you have three beds for 10 patients, how do you choose? And that is a decision no physician wants to make.”

Taylor said COVID-19’s slow incubation rate means holiday travelers could be contagious even without symptoms. And negative test results don’t mean gatherings are safe, either. Taylor said separating from loved ones now will help keep people healthy in the long term.

“There’s two different isolations," she said. "There's a temporary isolation electively because you're trying to keep yourself and your family members safe. And then there's the mandatory isolation that happens when you wind up hospitalized."

Taylor recommends virtual celebrations and limiting in-person contact to the people already in your bubble. The Centers for Disease Control has its own holiday guidelines here.

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