As Idaho’s hospitals treat record numbers of COVID-19 patients, their models suggest the next few months could look even more daunting.
St. Luke’s Health System was caring for 135 COVID-19 patients on Monday. At the beginning of October, there were an average of 35 COVID-19 patients admitted to the health system on a given day.
And with daily case numbers and test positivity rates hitting unprecedented levels, Idaho's largest hospital systems say their own modeling shows the number of COVID-19 patients needing hospital care will greatly outpace what they’re seeing now.
Dr. Steven Nemerson of Saint Alphonsus Health System said, during a virtual briefing hosted by the City of Boise Tuesday, his organization predicts the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients will double by Christmas and triple in the next two months.
At that point, the hospital would need to treat patients in spaces not meant for clinical care, like conference rooms, Nemerson said.
The St. Luke’s model expects COVID-19 admissions by the first week of December — about two weeks away — to increase by about 30% of what it's seeing now.
The models, the hospital leaders said, keep turning out to be accurate. And they don’t factor in holiday travel that’s likely to further spread the virus.
The medical doctors at the virtual briefing said, if infections continue at this rate, they could be forced to ration care under the state’s crisis standards plan.
“If we let that happen, it's going to be our collective fault as citizens,” said Dr. Jim Souza, the chief medical officer for the St. Luke's Health System. He said people may be surprised to learn they could have limited care for everything from strokes to earaches.
“When you watch a train coming down the track toward you,” Souza said, “I suppose you tell yourself it might stop, but it probably won't. So you get out of the way.”
The health leaders criticized the patchwork of coronavirus mandates around the state and called for more enforcement in places where face mask and distancing orders do exist. Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said she’ll present ideas on how to tamp down coronavirus infections in the coming weeks.
At the same time, the Southwest District Health Board of Health gathered in Caldwell Tuesday morning for its monthly meeting. Among other things on the agenda were presentations from two guest speakers — Dr. Vicki Wooll, owner of Eagle Creek Family Medicine, and Michael Karlfeldt, a naturopath — who shared misinformation about the threat of COVID-19, treatments for the disease and the efficacy of face masks, as the Idaho Press reported.
“The notion that a public health district would give a platform to two known conspiracy theorists to share their non-patriotic narrative is unbelievable,” said Souza of St. Luke’s during a press conference on Tuesday.
Katrina Williams, the management assistant for Southwest District Health, wrote in an email that board members requested presentations from the guest speakers, but she did not say which board members made the requests.
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