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COVID-19 Is Here to Stay, Says Doctor
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Jeff Smith, St. Luke’s Wood River Community Board Chair, and Chris Roth, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System, recently surprised the staff at St. Luke’s Wood River with signs and cheers thanking them for their dedication to helping others.
   
Thursday, October 14, 2021
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTO BY JOY PRUDEK

The state is seeing a slight decline in community spread for the first time in more than three months. But Saint Alphonsus and other hospitals continue to see record numbers of COVID-related and non-COVID-related patients as the state continues to operate under crisis standards of care.

Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer for Saint Alphonsus Health System, told reporters this week that patients are getting sicker because his hospital has cancelled all procedures except for those deemed medically necessary and time sensitive. His staff is not only experiencing trauma and mental fatigue over what they’ve witnessed since the pandemic began 19 months ago but they’re being harassed and threatened by patients and their families daily.

Nemerson, a guest speaker at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s weekly COVID briefing,  lamented Idahoans’ resistance to the vaccine. Just 53 percent of Idahoans ages 12 and older are fully vaccinated. That’s the third lowest rate in the country and well below the 70 percent vaccination rate that the Centers for Disease Control experts say is needed to control the outbreak.

When the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in Idaho on Dec. 14, 2020, Nemerson called it “D-Day in the battle against COVID.” Now, he says COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic but endemic, meaning it will be everywhere all the time.

“We’ve lost the war. (COVID)) is here to stay because we can’t vaccinate enough of the public to fully  eradicate the disease,” he said.

Instead, the disease will likely continue to circulate, said Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist.

“And we only hope that over time it will become a milder and more tolerable virus, if you will. Kind of like some of the more seasonal coronaviruses are now,” she added.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 12, 705 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized statewide. Of those 185 were in the ICU and 127 on a ventilator, according to Dave Jeppesen, director of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The state’s test positivity rate is 14.6 percent—three times the 5 percent level that raises red flags among health officials.

The state still has a backlog of 7,800 cases that need to be processed, making it difficult to pinpoint just how bad the situation is.

State officials said some 500 Idaho children have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID.

Blaine County’s COVID risk level continues to be critical, according to data collected by South Central Public Health District from Sept. 19-Oct. 2. During that time Blaine County averaged nine new cases of COVID a day.

Thirty of those cases came among those between the ages of 30 and 39 with other age groups between 0 and 69 reporting between 10 and 20 new cases.

Test positivity is 10 percent, up from 8.27 percent two weeks earlier. The county is averaging 3.63 new cases per 10,000 residents, up from 2.98 in the previous period.

In response to the county’s continued “critical” rating, Hailey’s City Council voted 2-1 this week to extend its emergency health order requiring masks be worn inside to Nov. 11.


 

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