Magic Valley And Eastern Idaho See Increase In COVID-19 Hospitalizations

Oct 13, 2020

Hospitals in the Magic Valley and eastern Idaho are filling up due to an influx of COVID-19 patients in the past couple weeks.

St. Luke’s Magic Valley started off the week with more than 40 COVID-19 patients, Dr. Joshua Kern, the vice president of medical affairs for the hospitals in Twin Falls, Jerome and Ketchum, said during a press conference Tuesday morning.  

That’s the highest number of COVID-19 patients the hospital has seen over the course of the pandemic, including during the surge the Sun Valley area experienced in late March to early April. COVID-19 patients accounted for roughly a quarter of the total patients in the hospital earlier this week.

“For any medical providers, that’s just an unprecedented thing to say — that a quarter of the people in your facility are from one infectious disease,” Kern said.

Case numbers are on the rise, not just in Twin Falls, but in most Magic Valley counties, Kern said, and because hospitalizations lag positive test results, he expects admissions to continue to go up. 

“We might see another 40% rise in the number of patients in the hospital, up into the range of 50-plus patients,” Kern said. “That’s an alarming number. It gets us concerned about where we’re headed.”

At the same time, hospitals in eastern Idaho have seen dramatic increases in hospital admissions due to COVID-19 in the past few weeks. At an Eastern Idaho Public Health board meeting last week, hospital officials in Idaho Falls reported that the previous weekend, there were several hours during which there was only one ICU bed available in the metro area. 

Those hospitals are seeing a crunch on the number of available beds, especially due to staffing concerns as a result, in part, of health care workers needing to quarantine. 

St. Luke’s Magic Valley recently had to bring in physicians from the Boise area for this same reason, and Kern said the number of beds at that hospital is limited as nursing staff are strained and working extra hours. The hospital has stopped admitting patients from other regions, Kern said during a Twin Falls City Council meeting Monday night. 

And, on top of COVID-19 cases, St. Luke’s Magic Valley has already seen influenza patients in the hospital, including people with coinfections of COVID-19 and influenza. 

Hospitalizations Among Children

During Tuesday’s press conference with hospital officials, Dr. Kenny Bramwell, the medical director for St. Luke’s Children’s, gave an update on hospitalization trends among young people in Idaho.    

Though many children tend to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, “a few dozen” children locally have needed to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, Bramwell said, including a few cases in the “most severe category,” which includes the possibility of developing Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome or “MIS-C.” 

One Idaho MIS-C patient, a previously healthy teenager, Bramwell said, needed to be flown to a hospital in another city where they are awaiting a heart transplant. 

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 

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