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Idaho hospitals, still in crisis mode, see small signs of improvement

A chart shows COVID-19 hospitalization, ICU and ventilator trends in Idaho.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
A chart presented by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on Oct. 12 shows a slight decline in the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized, needing ICU care and on a ventilator.

Idaho’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are declining slightly, but health officials say it’s too early to tell if this is a long-term trend.

The largest health systems in Idaho are still in crisis standards of care. The number of COVID patients needing hospitalization is down slightly, but there’s still a long way to go before the hospitals are operating normally again.

“Can we take care of that patient the way that we used to?" Dr. Steven Nemerson, Chief Clinical Officer at Saint Alphonsus Health System, said during a media briefing Tuesday. "We’re not there yet, and we’re not even close.”

Idaho had the second-highest number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in the country last week proportionate to the number of hospital beds, according to a federal report. Only Montana ranked higher for recent COVID admissions.

COVID-19 case numbers in the state also likely aren’t accurate right now because several public health districts are behind on processing lab reports. That means there are more than 11,000 outstanding test results, which makes predicting trends difficult.

The test positivity rate has dropped in the last three weeks, and that’s a good sign, said deputy state epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner.

“I think if I see a decline in the test positivity this week, we’ll lean more towards we’re optimistic," she said Tuesday.

About 15% of tests are coming back positive, down from a peak in September of 17%.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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