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St. Luke’s health official concerned about COVID-19 numbers

Hospitalizations expected to double in two weeks
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 9:32 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the Gem State with nearly 16,000 cases and 126 deaths, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare data.

However, one St. Luke’s healthcare official and many others are concerned with how the rising case numbers will soon impact hospital care.

The coronavirus’s impact is definitely being felt on the hospital staff at St. Luke’s, which operates in several communities throughout Idaho. The hospital system is currently bending but not breaking, operating at 125 percent of its normal volume.

“That means 25 percent more patients than our normal volumes are at a rolling 30-day average that we might have,” said Joshua Kern,vice president of medical affairs for St. Luke’s.

Dr. Kern is worried the increasing cases are going to start impacting hospital operations. He said hospitalizations are expected to double at St. Luke’s in the next two weeks due to COVID-19.

“I have heard horror stories out of Houston and Florida. Twenty-four hour ER waiting times . . . I actually heard in the South somewhere where a patient died in his car outside the ER waiting to be seen,” Kern said.

He also said supply and demand pressures are making some of the pieces needed for the testing difficult to get.

With a limited amount of testing supplies. St. Luke’s is sending nonemergency patients off-site to be tested for COVID-19, causing a delay in results, four to seven days.

“Critically ill patients — any patients that come into the hospital that need to be admitted or pretty sick we are doing those tests in-house,” Kern said.

With the increased number of positive and new cases every day, some citizens are concerned that Idaho hasn't even seen the worst yet.

John Hopkins COVID-19 tracker has Idaho’s seven day moving average of positive tests at 18.6 percent. It was at 3.4 percent on June 21. The World Health Organization has said that, “countries that have conducted extensive testing for COVID-19, should remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days.”

positive tests
positive tests(John Hopkins University)

“My primary concern is when we get into the Fall months and Winter months. People are inside their homes more. . . inside of areas without great ventilation,” said Jeff Stevens, Twin Falls resident.

Dr. Kern said his best advice for people right now is to take the virus seriously.

“There is a portion of the community that doesn’t think this is real and is not wearing the mask and spreading the virus. I mean that is what we are dealing with,” Kern said.

He also said the community needs to do their part and stop spreading the virus, so “we have a bed for you when you need it” and the community can rebound.

Without the issue of a state mandate for masks, all he and others can do is ask people to wear a mask, social distance, and listen to the experts.

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