© 2021 Boise State Public Radio

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact us at boisestatepublicradio@boisestate.edu or call (208) 426-3663.
WebHeader_3.png
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

'This is not what I thought Idaho was:' Doctors react to hostility aimed at health care workers

Virus Outbreak Hospital
Kyle Green/AP
/
FR171837 AP
Neeraj Soni, M.D. walks through the emergency department at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Idaho Gov. Brad Little said during a news conference today that "nearly all Idaho hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients," (AP Photo/Kyle Green)

Unvaccinated Idahoans continue to be hospitalized at five and a half times the rate of vaccinated people, straining the hospital systems and overwhelming health care workers. Yet, misinformation and anger continues to spread throughout the state — with hateful acts targeted at the doctors and nurses working to treat those infected.

Idaho Matters is joined by Dr. David Pate, former CEO of St. Luke's Health System and a current member of the Idaho Coronavirus Task Force and Dr. Frank Johnson, Chief Medical Officer for St. Luke’s Boise, Elmore and McCall.

"We have to decide what we want to be. What does Idaho want to be? This is not what I thought Idaho was."
Dr. David Pate, former CEO of St. Luke's Health System and current member of Idaho's Coronavirus Task Force

Read full transcript here:

Gemma Gaudette: Fully vaccinated people are five times less likely to contract COVID-19 than unvaccinated people, and those vaccinated people who do get breakthrough cases are five and a half times less likely to be hospitalized than those who are unvaccinated. That's according to David Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Jeppesen, during a weekly briefing yesterday, also emphasized the best way to get out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated. Joining us today to talk about this and other COVID topics, or Dr. David Pate, former CEO of St. Luke's Health System, as well as a current member of the Idaho Coronavirus Task Force, and Dr. Frank Johnson, Chief Medical Officer for St. Luke's Boise, Elmore and McCall. I want to thank both of you for joining us today.

Dr. David Pate: Hi, Gemma.

Gemma Gaudette: And remember that if you have a question for our medical experts, get it into us idahomatters@boisestate.edu. First, Dr. Johnson, I'd like to start with you and just get an update on how things are at St. Luke's, but in particular in some of the outlying hospitals. We talk quite a bit about the large hospital in Boise and Meridian. But how do things look in McCall and in Elmore County?

Dr. Frank Johnson: Well, thanks for asking. You know, we do have a big system and we've been really fortunate to be able to balance some of our care capacity across that system. We have been able to use some of the capacity that has been available at places like our Jerome Hospital and places like our Wood River Hospital, where they did have a little bit of capacity. We've been able to have some of our patients who have presented to Magic Valley or Boise or other bigger hospitals sent to those critical access hospitals to help create more capacity at our bigger hospitals. So that's been really great. Now not to say that those smaller communities haven't also seen big surges--both for COVID and non-COVID issues as well. If our hospital in mountain home in Elmore has had some real capacity issues that a lot of patients with COVID present there. In addition, they had a lot of women coming in and delivering babies. We had a real surge in deliveries here within the last couple of weeks. That's put some added strain on their capacity. So that's been a challenge. I would say that over the last couple of days--that's that's a couple of days it's not necessarily a trend--but at least in the last couple of days, some of those smaller outlying hospitals have seen some improvements in their capacity. And that's been at least a chance to get our heads above water a little bit and catch our breath. Hopefully, that will be the start of a trend, but we'll just have to wait and see. We're not ready to celebrate yet, for sure.

Gemma Gaudette: And with that said Dr. Pate, there's been news coming out across the country in regards to the Delta variant to this latest surge, saying, 'Oh, numbers are, you know, case numbers are starting to to decline. We may be kind of out of the woods.' Can you clarify that? In terms of Idaho--because it seems that we are in a much different situation than some other states? I mean, in fact, we are the only state to have enacted crisis standards of care, and we are still acting under that.

Dr. David Pate: Yeah. Gemma, it's a good question, and it's important for people to understand that unlike what we might see with some other infections, COVID for reasons we still don't understand, is moving regionally in our country. For example, you know, back at the end of spring, we are seeing much worse activity in Oregon and Washington, but not in Idaho. Why should that be? We don't know. And similarly, a couple of months ago, we saw much more activity in the lower in the southeastern states, and we didn't have as much in Idaho. So this is regional. So yes, the global United States numbers do seem to have peaked and are coming down. But remember, that's because Idaho doesn't account for most of the population of the United States. We're not one of the bigger population states. So while they're getting better, we're still on our increase. And there's a number of other states that are in a similar position. And it may be years before we understand why coronavirus is acting this way. But in Idaho, what you're going to want to look for when people ask me,'well, have we hit the peak?' Well, the way you're going to tell that is look at the number of daily new cases and when that becomes the same or less than our seven day moving average, then you'll know it's likely we've peaked.

Gemma Gaudette: And also, when we are thinking about the variant, you know, the one thing that so many people are waiting for are the vaccines for children. Dr. Pate, we've talked about this before. Is there any update on where we are in the progress of getting the next age group five to 11 year olds vaccinated because it seems like we're kind of in a holding pattern right now?

Dr. David Pate: Yeah. Well, there's very, very good news ahead for us we believe. Pfizer has submitted their data to the FDA to support that vaccination of children ages five and above is safe and effective. And so the FDA is reviewing that data right now, and we should all be reassured that the FDA is reviewing the data so intently to make sure that they're convinced it's safe and effective. And as a good sign, there have already been, you know, there's about four big meetings that these approvals have to go through, and we know at least one of those meetings has been scheduled for October 26. So that gives us a good clue that we could be seeing these vaccines approved by the end of this month, and that would be very welcome to have that happen before the holidays.

Gemma Gaudette: It really would be. With that said, folks are still wondering about vaccine boosters. And Dr. Johnson, maybe you can talk a little bit about that because just today, St. Luke's said that they are able to now give Pfizer boosters.

Dr. Frank Johnson: That's right. We are following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, and I think those are accurate that those who have received a Pfizer vaccine and have completed their Pfizer vaccine series more than six months ago and who meet some of those criteria that the CDC has put out--age over 65 or age between 50 and 64 with chronic health conditions or individuals in occupations that place them at higher risk for catching COVID. Those individuals who meet those criteria are eligible for a Pfizer booster. It's a relatively limited group that has been given that approval, but it's still really important, and I'm grateful that we're able to provide that and help follow those guidelines and get people's immunity boosted up who may benefit from that.

Gemma Gaudette: The other thing I want to talk about is the news coming out of of Merck, and this is a new antiviral pill. I've heard some people describe it as kind of like the when you have the flu, you can take Tamiflu within a certain number of hours and it can really decrease the symptoms. So Dr. Pate, can you talk about this antiviral pill, but also in regards to the vaccine? Because I think there is some misinformation out there about like, 'hey, just take a pill and you'll be fine.'

Dr. David Pate: Yes. Well, this development is certainly very welcome, and all of us have believed that this is an area of research that needs to happen. And even beyond this particular virus, because as we talked before, we're going to have more pandemics in the future. So antivirals are very, very important. However, antivirals are limited in what they can do. First of all, with this medication, it's going to be expensive. We've already heard numbers in the range of $700 for course of this treatment, so that compares to getting your vaccine for about $20. Now, right now, the government is picking up the tab, so no, you're not having to pay for this, but we all know there's no free lunches, and so obviously we will indirectly pay for this. Second, you can't take this drug over the counter. It's going to have to be prescribed. Third, you're not going to be able to get it until you have symptoms. And as we've talked about all the way back to last year, you can still transmit this virus even before you become symptomatic. So it's still not going to be the panacea. This drug will decrease-- according to the Merck PR reports, neither Dr. Johnson or I have been actually able to see the data, and we will look at the data--but according to their reports, is it will decrease your chances of hospitalization by half. Now you remember Gemma in your lead in, you said getting the vaccine would reduce your chances by more than five times. So certainly from a cost effective standpoint, your best bet is the vaccine. The antivirals are not intended to make the vaccines unnecessary because the antiviral you can't take until you're already sick, which means you can still have many of the consequences of being sick. So by far, the best thing is take the vaccine, but it's great that we may have this antiviral available for someone that has a breakthrough infection or is particularly high risk. Or maybe some of the folks that couldn't take it. So very promising more to come. But still, you need to go get vaccinated and you should get vaccinated today.

Gemma Gaudette: And that is ultimately, I think Dr. Pate what's so important about this is that it's good news that there could potentially be something like this, but at the end of the day, I mean, a vaccine is your best bet.

Dr. David Pate: Unquestionably. You take the vaccine and you get protection for many months--and it's certainly possible, we don't know yet--but after these boosters that we've been talking about earlier on this show, you know, that may give you many years of protection. We don't know yet, but obviously that's going to be far better and it's going to reduce the virus spreading in our communities. And as we've talked about before, we have to decrease that transmission because first of all, that's what's overwhelming our hospitals. But second, that's the way that more variants occur. And you know, the variants threaten the potential for the antivirals to work. They threaten the potential for the monoclonal antibodies to work, and they threaten the potential for the vaccines to work. So we still need to reduce the the spread of this disease. And again, our best way out of this and towards a more normal life, like we're all longing for, is for us to get vaccinated.

Gemma Gaudette: Dr. Pate, we just got this question in from an anonymous listener saying 'my coworker refuses to get the vaccine. She is in direct and very close contact with patients for 20 plus minutes at a minimum. St. Luke's is now requiring all non-vaccinated employees to do regular asymptomatic COVID testing starting this week. My coworker tested positive, but is not symptomatic. She does wear a mask and so do our patients, but how concerned should I be?'

Dr. David Pate: Well, you know, we know that masks help decrease the transmission of this virus, but we also know that masks aren't perfect. So obviously if we know that someone is positive, certainly we wouldn't want them taking care of patients and we wouldn't want you--or I wouldn't want to be in very close proximity to them. I'm vaccinated, too--but we also know that the vaccination is not perfect. It's going to be a big help. But certainly, if people are positive, they should be at home and isolating and making sure that they don't further spread this infection.

Gemma Gaudette: Dr. Johnson, Joe wrote in saying, 'we know vaccines help limit severity, but can you speak to natural immunity in folks because we seem to only hear about vaccinated versus unvaccinated? But does science show those that have survived COVID have protection?'

Dr. Frank Johnson: Well, it does look like surviving COVID having an infection does provide some protection. The question is just how much protection does it provide? And that's where the question really is out there. You know, for many people who had COVID, they got COVID six, eight, 12 months ago and their level of immunity from that exposure is uncertain. There's a couple of reasons to expect that one, if you got COVID eight, 10 months ago, you didn't get the Delta variant, you got the original COVID and how much immunity to the Delta variant with the higher level of virus that occurs with exposure to the Delta variant, would you get from contracting, recovering, having antibodies to the original COVID? We don't know that for sure. So it is uncertain. What we do know is that our vaccines provide great robust immunity and that they work. So with the evidence that we've got something that we know works and provides immunity. Natural immunity certainly provides some protection, but we just don't know how much. And so therefore it still is a great idea to get the vaccine. Even if you have had prior infection, it is still important. It's still provides additional benefit. How much additional benefit? I think there's probably some question and argument about just how much additional benefit it provides, but it does provide additional benefit. We can say that with confidence. So that's how I would answer that question.

Gemma Gaudette: Dr. Pate George writes in saying, 'can your doctors address claims of of proven treatment, even prevention of COVID, in Mexico or other countries by use of ivermectin? These unchallenged claims can be heard on the radio by callers stating that ivermectin, even hydroxychloroquine, are viable or even better treatments than those approved by our FDA. People absorb what they want to hear. Such people ignore established medical advice, even to the extent of vaccine refusal. Are there studies that support these claims?'

Dr. David Pate: Well, the answer is yes, but let me qualify that. So the first thing is we have no proven drug or anything that you can take to prevent COVID other than getting vaccinated. That is the one thing that will help prevent you getting COVID. Now the reason I answered the way I did is yes, there actually are some studies that seem to suggest that ivermectin could be helpful treating COVID. Here's the problem. And this is what's so hard for Dr. Johnson and I to explain to people, because just because there's a study saying something doesn't mean most of us in the medical profession would trust that. So the first thing is there are studies that are called invitro, in a test tube. Those can be helpful just to test a concept. But often what we find happens in a test tube is not what happens when it gets into the complex body. There are some studies showing that in a test tube that ivermectin can be very helpful with the coronavirus. The problem is, the levels that are required would be toxic in the human body--so that doesn't help us very much. Number two, there are some studies that people refer to in mice and rats and ferrets and various things. And again, those can be helpful to test to see well, if it works in them, might it work in humans? But oftentimes we find that things that happen in an animal don't happen the same way in humans. When you do look at the human studies, there are many different types of studies and depending on the type of study, is going to depend on how much credence Dr. Johnson and I are going to give that study. What people are usually referring to when they say that the studies show that ivermectin works, they're looking at something called a meta analysis. And that is where you take a whole bunch of small studies that may have had different requirements for study participants, different ages, different doses, different regimens of treatment--all kinds of things. But you mash them all together and see when you combine them. Does it show an effect? That's not a strong study methodology. There is a way to do it better, but it's very complicated to do that, and most of them don't do it. These meta analyzes don't take that more careful approach. The problem is kind of the old saying garbage in, garbage out. And when you look at a couple of studies that particularly influence the the decision that, yes, it's effective. One is a study done in Iran where the researchers are not sharing their data. Another one is another study where a journal has already retracted it because of suspicion that there was not accuracy there. What we need to do is we need to be able to see the data so we can check to see how well is the study done? That's what peer review is. SO these are including non-peer-reviewed studies and studies where the authors are not being transparent with us, so we don't give them very much credibility. So I would say, right now, there is no data that would convince Dr Johnson or myself that you should take ivermectin to prevent COVID or to treat COVID. There is a well-designed study underway to answer this question. And of course, we hold out the potential that maybe the study will show it's effective. But at the same time, I can tell you there are many of our emergency room doctors that are seeing patients with severe COVID that were taking ivermectin. Even one of the doctors who is a big proponent of ivermectin here, got COVID while taking ivermectin. Now he says that he missed a couple of doses, but that should be caution for everybody. Do you want to take a vaccine and now you're done and you're protected? Or do you want to take a pill that we don't know whether it works? It doesn't have near the evidence or the approval with FDA that this has, and that if you miss doses, it may not protect you. The last point, and then I'll stop, is the company that makes ivermectin that would benefit financially if large numbers of people would take their drug. They came out and said their scientists do not believe there's any evidence to support ivermectin.

Gemma Gaudette: That is good to know. Dr. Johnson Caroline just sent this, and she says, 'could please speak to breakthrough COVID-19 cases among the fully vaccinated? My mom's assisted living facility has had 18 breakthrough cases causing isolation of all residents, and a group of friends has seen five breakthroughs with two hospitalizations.'

Dr. Frank Johnson: We do see breakthrough infections. The vaccine is fantastic. It's not perfect. It's not, and we would never present it as being 100% protective or effective, but it is very good nonetheless. We still see some of these breakthrough infections. They continue to be occasional and continue to be uncommon. Part of the issue, we've got so much COVID going around, so many people who haven't been vaccinated, that five, 10, 15 patients with a breakthrough infection--we hear about those a lot. We don't hear about the 100, 200, 300 who don't get the breakthrough infection. So it continues to be a very effective vaccine. With the breakthrough infections for the vast majority of people, the infection is mild and limited and is not causing significant symptoms. That is not always the case, though, and sometimes there are cases where the disease can become more concerning with those breakthrough infections. Someone who has an impaired immune system, someone who is more frail, has some underlying health conditions is going to be more likely to have more serious complications or issues with a breakthrough infection. That's one of the reasons that our booster shots for the Pfizer vaccines have been really targeted at those with immune dysfunction. A more frail, older individuals who may not have had as robust a response to the initial vaccine is what we would like. We continue to see very low rates of hospitalizations for those who have been vaccinated and have a breakthrough infection. We continue to see that for our patients in the ICU, it's 98% are unvaccinated patients in the ICU, who are getting sick enough to need that type of care. So it continues to be protective of severe COVID. I'm sorry that we still see those breakthrough infections. It will continue to happen, and it's it's important to continue to be mindful when you're symptomatic that you may have COVID and if you've been vaccinated, that you take appropriate precautions to protect those around you.

Gemma Gaudette: Ingrid wrote in, as she says, 'is there any monitoring of people with long term symptoms? Does the CDC track for many months or years?' And Dr. Johnson, maybe you can take that. I think we know the answer that they haven't tracked it for years because we are literally only about 18 months into the pandemic.

Dr. Frank Johnson: Well, that would be correct. Yes, we at St. Luke's do have a long COVID clinic now where we are monitoring, tracking, trying to help those patients who have developed long standing symptoms and trying to find ways to help them recover and get well again. I know the St. Alphonsus is doing the very same thing. We're not unique in doing that, and many other hospitals, clinics and facilities around the country are doing the same thing. We'll look forward to gathering that information from those that are doing that work as we learn more and try to find those ways we can help people to recover and heal. It's a sad, sad situation. We've certainly had plenty of patients with those long COVID symptoms who have been disabled by those symptoms, have been unable to return to work, have been unable to enjoy the same quality of life that they were before. And it's ...heartbreaking. I hope that we will learn more about ways we can treat and address those symptoms that occur in long COVID. Of course, the best prevention, as we've been saying all along on this show, is preventing getting COVID in the first place with the vaccine, but we do need to continue those efforts. We're learning more about long COVID with every passing week and month. I don't know that we have any answers yet, but we continue to look into it.

Gemma Gaudette: I want to go to a question from Hank and Dr. Pate, maybe you can answer this. He says 'could the doctors advise my wife and myself if taking a Pfizer booster in the next few days--we both qualify-- might impact the results of a COVID test that we need to take for travel prior to October 19th. Would we be risking being able to travel by taking a booster?'

Dr. David Pate: No, it won't. So the vaccine does not cause a false positive test. In fact, if you have been vaccinated and you have a positive test, you do have to consider whether you're one of those breakthrough infections. But no--taking the vaccine will have no impact on that COVID test for travel. In fact, getting the booster is probably going to make it a lot less likely that you'll be positive when you get tested.

Gemma Gaudette: That's good information to have, I think. Dr. Johnson, Deborah just sent this iin. She says, 'I'm 65 and I'm six months out from my Johnson and Johnson vaccine and I have contracted COVID. I am getting a monoclonal infusion. I am a teacher in a district that has no mask requirements. I am very concerned about returning to the classroom. I know the antibody infusion will help. But what if Johnson and Johnson doesn't have a booster available in three months? Can I start over with a Pfizer vaccine?' And Dr. Johnson, we have talked about whether folks can switch boosters in the past. But also didn't Johnson and Johnson...they're trying to get a booster, correct?

Dr. Frank Johnson: I think all of the manufacturers of vaccines are looking into the benefits and the potential downsides of boosters, including Johnson and Johnson. There isn't any current recommendation for a booster with the J&J vaccine. And in terms of mixing, switching vaccines, we really don't have enough evidence to make a recommendation one way or the other. There's some research looking into that. I hope the caller is recovering. The monoclonal antibodies--great, great choice. I'm glad that you were able to access those. We've had some good processes in place across the region and across the state to increase our access to monoclonal antibodies for situations like yours. Hopefully that works and you get healthy again. The question around switching and getting a Pfizer or Moderna, I can't say today that I have enough evidence to recommend one way or the other. Continuing with your own personal protection with wearing masks personally can help reduce your own risk and and I certainly hope you recover. Hopefully, the additional immunity that you may get from having this infection now will provide you some added protection moving forward as well.

Gemma Gaudette: Mm-hmm. Dr. Pate, Anne just wrote this in, and she says 'we're in our seventies. Two doses of Pfizer vaccine and we're very careful with physical distance and masks. We have heard that the Moderna booster might provide more immunity than the Pfizer booster. Should we wait for the Moderna booster or get the Pfizer one now?'

Dr. David Pate: So...I may have not heard Gemma, but I'm presuming these folks got the Pfizer vaccine for the first two doses. Right?

Gemma Gaudette: They did. They got the Pfizer vaccine, the first two doses, they're in their seventies.

Dr. David Pate: Yes, then they definitely should get the Pfizer booster. As Dr. Johnson was just commenting, those studies looking at the ability to mix and match and whether that would be better or worse are ongoing. So we don't have the answers to that. So currently, the recommendation is the only booster that is recommended right now is the Pfizer one. We expect Moderna and J&J to be coming out over the next month or two, but right now the only booster that's authorized is Pfizer. And if you've got Pfizer, you should get Pfizer at this time. That recommendation might change in the future, but I would also caution them against waiting because one thing that we have seen is that with time that immunity can drop significantly and especially at their age, I'd hate to take a chance on them getting breakthrough infection while they're waiting for something that may not get authorized.

Gemma Gaudette: Dr. Pate this listener just wrote in saying 'my son was at a medical office in Nampa this week. The woman doing the COVID screening at the door looked grim, and he asked her how her day was going. She told him that already that morning, two men had yelled at her and a woman had slapped her. What are medical facilities doing to protect their employees?' Dr. Pate, I bring this question up because I know that you want to talk about this today in particular, because there is violence happening against health care workers right now and it is happening locally, and it may not necessarily even be a physical altercation like we just heard from this listener, but literally health care workers are being badgered walking to their car, right? There are protesters outside of hospitals. It is frankly unconscionable what is going on.

Dr. David Pate: Well, it really is, and thank you, Gemma, I did want to speak to this. You know, I want to appeal to people for a minute. First of all, if you're an elected leader, you need to step up and you need to condemn this and you need to--even if you've been promulgating some of this disinformation and stuff about vaccines and whatever--let's put that aside for a minute. We all get angry. It is never, ever appropriate for us to strike somebody else. It's never, ever appropriate for us to spit on somebody. And we should not be making threats or harassing the very people that are there to take care of us. And we've talked on this show Gemma about, you know--some people have suggested, well, maybe we shouldn't give priority to those that were unvaccinated. Let me tell you, our health care workers are there for everyone. They don't judge you. They care for you when no one else will or wants to. And we have to have our leaders step up and condemn this. We need to call this out and say this is never appropriate. And I understand you're angry. I understand there's things you may not like, but we are not setting a good role model for our children or others to say, 'well, let's take it out on the very people that are trying to help us.' That is wrong. And let me say one last thing. One day COVID is going to be behind us--to some extent--and we're going to be going back on with our lives. And people are going to get cancer. People are going to have heart attacks. People are going to have strokes, whatever. And you're going to want those hospitals to be there and those doctors and those nurses to be there for you or your family member, somebody that you love or care about, you're going to want them to be there. This is not the time when our health care professionals are already stressed to the max. This is not the time for us to give them more reason to leave the profession, leave Idaho, whatever. We need to cherish these people, so this needs to stop now.

Gemma Gaudette: And with that said, I mean, Dr. Johnson at the St. Luke's in McCall a couple of weeks ago, you know, we saw a swastika one of the signs outside of the hospital. I mean, this may not be, you know, an actual person coming into contact with a health care worker and berating them or being physically violent with them but it seems to definitely hold the same impact.

Dr. Frank Johnson: Oh, that episode was...Sorry, that's..it's certainly an emotional response to that type of episode. I apologize for that.But the episode in McCall was absolutely deplorable. I don't think there's anyone who would disagree with that, and I just have...my heart goes out to those up in McCall who had to experience.... had to experience working their tails off all night saving lives, --really, that's what they were doing--and to come out and and see that on their way home was...it's just no words, there's really no words to describe it, so I won't even try. I stand wholeheartedly with Dr. Pate and his comments. He's absolutely correct. And you know, our teams are tired. They've been working hard now for 18 months saving lives. And at this point, with the majority of those who are hospitalized with COVID, being unvaccinated, with a number of deaths that we're seeing, my goodness, we had just yesterday at our Magic Valley Hospital, 11 deaths in one day. That's not unusual. We had 11 deaths on a day last week in a Boise Hospital. It's like that with the pressures and the stresses that our teams are under and with, you know, with the feeling that so much of this is unnecessary because it's unvaccinated people. We have a tool, we have a strategy that can really help prevent those deaths. The teams are tired and then to face the kind of abuse that both you and Dr. Pate described is just unconscionable that that would happen. We might have some disagreements on exactly what the nature of Idaho values are, and that's good and fine. But I think we can all agree that that type of behavior, that type of...treating others in that way is not Idaho values.

Gemma Gaudette: And I have to say, just on a personal note that some kiddos from my children's school on Sunday went and they put goodie bags together. At the school that my children attend, you have to do community service, individual community service. So there were a group of parents that thought, you know what? Let's have our kids make goody bags, signs of support for health care workers and go to an area hospital and share the workers on at shift change and give them a goodie bag. After this was finished, you could see, you know, nurses, doctors, other employees with tears in their eyes. I want to read a text message that one of the parents received after this happened, just to put this in perspective for people. It says 'my husband works in the central pharmacy at this hospital. It's been a long time since he's had a "good day" at work. Yesterday, they were dealing with medication shortages for people who are on ventilators, and he spent a lot of his day calling other hospitals trying to track down any spare medication so they can just try to keep people breathing. Even just bringing medication to different parts of the hospital, he sees people dying every time he goes to work. I regularly get calls from him at the end of his day, where he is on the brink of tears. Yesterday, when he called me, I was expecting the same. He told me that as he was leaving work, a kid ran up to him and said thank you and gave him....it is difficult to read...and gave him treats with it...when he walked out of the building and he saw a group of people, he expected protesters and people to yell at him....just that one interaction really made his day and he was touched that the kids would be spending time on a Sunday to do that.' That's where we're at...

Dr. David Pate: Gemma, let me just comment for a minute. You know, look, I know Gemma and I know Dr. Johnson. These are good people. They are also people that have been doing what they're doing for many years. And I hope all the listeners hear in both of their voices, how they're responding to this--this is our reality. When you see the people out there that are being hateful to health care workers, saying the misinformation and disinformation--our lieutenant governor, some of the doctors that have spouted some real nonsense. Those are people that don't go into our hospital and see what Dr. Johnson has seen. They are not people that have talked with the health care workers that are being impacted that are on the front lines to see what this is like. And let me tell you, it's happened with every reporter that I've seen that's gone into one of our hospitals--and we can't obviously let a whole lot of people in given the circumstances--but every reporter that's gone in and then seen that has had the same reaction. They've been on the verge of tears. And let me tell you, I've seen a lot of people die in my time. This still brings me to tears because Dr. Johnson said it didn't have to be. And people were misinformed, misled and lied to. What I want to convey to you is we have to act differently. This is serious. We're not making this up. Our health care workers are stressed. They're physically and emotionally tired and exhausted. And so, what do we want to teach our children? Do you want to teach our children hatred and anger? Take them to school board meetings where you're going to act out and yell and scream? You want to take them to protest where you're going to burn your mass or, you know, insult health care workers? Is that what you want to teach your children? Or do you want to teach your children kindness, gratitude, appreciation--like those children that did this sign of appreciation for health care workers? We have to decide what we want to be. What does Idaho want to be? This is not what I thought Idaho was. It is time for the majority of Idahoans who I know are caring to stand up. To condemn this. To speak up and to let our leaders know we are not going to tolerate their nonsense any more. So please thank you, Gemma. Thank you, Dr. Johnson. And I just hope that this will get through to some listeners.

Gemma Gaudette: And my apologies for getting emotional, but man..it impacts all of us. We're all human. It just should not be here that health care workers are so moved by a goody bag that a kid made. Right? And to be at this point...I so agree with you, Dr. Pate, that we have to figure out who we are going to be when this is over and how we are going to teach our children moving forward. With this, we can have disagreements. We can be on different sides of the aisle on this issue. But to be in a place where health care workers don't feel safe...I just cannot wrap my brain around that.

Dr. David Pate: Amen.

Gemma Gaudette: So I want to thank both of you for what you do, for being with us today, Dr. Johnson, for continuing to be on the front lines of this. Dr. Pate for all you've done over these last 18 months. Again, our guest today, Dr. David Pate, former CEO of St. Luke's Health System and a member of the Idaho Coronavirus Task Force and Dr. Frank Johnson, Chief Medical Officer for St. Luke's Boise Elmore and McCall.

Gemma is the host of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show which broadcasts live Monday-Friday at noon. She is an award-winning journalist and has spent the majority of her broadcasting career in Idaho. Gemma was a television news anchor and reporter in Boise for close to 15 years. She came to Boise in 1999 to start Fox 12.
Samantha Wright is a news reporter and producer for Idaho Matters.