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St. Luke’s Boosts Testing Capacity Amidst COVID Surge
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Friday, December 31, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

St. Luke’s Wood River has doubled its capacity for COVID-19 testing as COVID cases spiral out of control in Blaine County.

The hospital will be able to perform 168 tests a day, up from 84, according to Joy Prudek, the hospital’s public relations manager. That includes New Year’s Day, or Saturday, when the hospital will be testing between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

To schedule a test, go to St. Luke’s myChart or call 208-381-9500.

St. Luke’s ability to increase the tests it does comes amidst a surge in new cases in the county. According to the New York Times Coronavirus Tracker, 81 new cases were reported in Blaine County on Wednesday.

There were 116 new cases reported over a two-day period Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Idaho Health and Welfare’s COVID tracker. Then Blaine County added another 78 cases on Thursday for a total of 3,540 official cases since the pandemic started.

Going by South Central Public Health District's COVID tracker, the county notched 150 cases on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Blaine County is currently one of the state’s hot spots, the surge believed to be fueled by tourists coming from around the world. Until these past few days, it had averaged 9.1 new cases a day for the previous week.

The only county doing worse is Benewah in the Idaho Panhandle, home to St. Maries and the Coeur d’Alene Reservation, according to the state tracker.

The surge has moved Blaine County from the moderate to the high-risk level based on criteria reported during the two weeks through Christmas Day. And officials for South Central Public Health District warn that Blaine County will likely move into the critical risk category soon if cases continue at this rate.

The test positivity rate for the county during the two weeks ending Christmas Day was 12.58 percent according to the state--well above the 5 percent level health officials are comfortable with. The majority of the new cases during that time were among 18- to 29-year-olds with 37 cases reported in that age group.

There were 15 new cases among 30- to 39-year-olds, ten among 50- to 59-year-olds, nine among 40- to 49-year-olds and eight among 60-69-year-olds.

Outbreaks have been found in several businesses, according to the South-Central Public Health District. The Health District is monitoring 159 confirmed cases and 86 probable cases in the county

Before St. Luke’s increased testing, residents were reporting waits of two to four days to get tested.

Many pharmacies and clinics in Idaho are experiencing a shortage of rapid COVID-19 tests, according to KTVB. The clinical program director of the COVID testing clinic at Boise State University, said rapid tests are back-ordered four to six weeks following a big increase in testing demand over the holidays.

Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise noted Thursday that its testing showed 15 percent positivity--the highest it's been since Oct. 28.

Idaho has received 240 doses of the new anti-viral pill Paxlovid, which was recently approved by the FDA to treat symptoms of COVID in patients at highest risk for poor outcomes. The state also has a limited supply of a new treatment called Evusheld at its disposal. Evusheld provides antibodies for at least six months for those who are immunocompromised or undergoing cancer treatments that put them at high risk.

Nineteen cases of omicron variant had been confirmed in Idaho as of Wednesday evening, according to Health and Welfare. And the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare tweeted that there may be another 150 cases among tests that are pending.

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