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Top hospital leaders on COVID-19: The latest facts, and what they hope happens

Leaders fromSouthw­­est Idaho’s largest health care organizations gave an update on COVID-19 numbers and called on the public to help slow the spread.

“At the very early stages of this pandemic, we formed a healthcare collaborative. We did so with the intent of sharing information with one another, best practices, sharing data, sharing PPE and supplies and what we are seeing in our organizations,” Chris Roth, St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO said.

The President and CEOs, along with Chief Medical Officers from Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s Health Systems, West Valley Medical Center, Primary Health Medical Group and Saltzer Health participated in the call.

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“As a collective healthcare system, we are not panicking, we are not in crisis,” said Roth. “We are taking care of everyone who needs care today and we will continue to do that. But August will be too late and we will find ourselves in a situation where that could change.”

Cases double in July

  • Nearly half of all confirmed cases have occurred in the last two weeks in Idaho.
  • 5,552 confirmed casesfrom March 13 to June 30.
  • 5,110 confirmed cases July 1st to July 13th.
  • St. Al’s said its youngest critically ill patient was 21-years-old and the largest growth of COVID-positive patients are people under 30-years-old.
  • COVID in Idaho Per Capita:
    • Two months ago: 7 cases per 100,000
    • Today: 300-1,000 cases per 100,000
  • “By Labor Day we would expect that as much as 50% of our total in-patient volume across our St. Alphonsus health system will be consumed by patients with Coronavirus. But we have the opportunity to change that trend,” Dr. Steven Nemerson, Saint Alphonsus Chief Clinical Officer said.
  • Over 400 patients/day in Primary Health’s respiratory clinics.


  • St. Al’s mobile testing sites:
    • June 14th: 20-40 patients tested/day
    • As of last week: Over 800 patients/day
  • “We have been forced to now restrict our testing to only to symptomatic patients,” said Dr. Nemerson. “We need focus our testing for patients who require confirmation of COVID in order to receive appropriate treatment.”
  • Primary Health’s Dr. David Peterman said although there are more tests, the number to look at is the positivity rate.
  • Graphs show percentage of weekly positive tests. They show a 15% positive test rate – that is 7 times the rate in May. A 5% rate shows control over disease, according to Peterman.

Hospital Capacity

  • St. Lukes COVID-19 hospitalizations:
    • June 26: 20
    • July 2: 40
    • July 7: 51
    • Today: 77
    • Operating at 130% normal capacity
  • Other Idaho hospitals are seeing similar numbers.
  • “We see no change in this trend and our projections suggest that COVID-related admissions will double,” Roth said. “If we do not reverse this trend, we are headed for a crisis.”
  • “I am highly confident that someone you know or love is probably going to need one of our facilities in the next weeks to months which we’re managing through a pandemic,” St. Luke’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jim Souza said.

Healthcare workers

  • “Since March, we were constantly focused on making sure we had our teams ready to take care of any emerging volume from COVID patients,” Odette Bolano, Saint Alphonsus Health System President, and CEO said.
  • St. Al’s healthcare workers in Quarantine:
    • One month ago: 25 workers
    • Today: 123 workers
  • St. Luke’s said it is seeing similar numbers.
  • “Our limited resources of our human capital, which is the most important in this pandemic, are beginning to get sick because of community spread,” Bolano said.
  • Primary Health had to close a clinic last weekend due to staff having positive or pending tests.
  • “We can increase bed capacity but we need people to provide that care. Our (medical workers) are now acquiring this infection in the community,” Souza said.

Plea for Action

  • Collectively, the group asked for two things:
    1. For the community to be more vigilant in wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing, washing hands often.
    2. For all members of the community to contact community officials – all who have the ability to make policy – and urge them to mandate face coverings.
  • “Now is the time for us to make a difference,” said West Valley Medical Center CEO Betsy Hunsicker. “In addition to hand washing and social distancing, a culture of masking will allow us to keep our economy going while minimizing the spread of infection.”
  • Throughout the call, the healthcare leaders emphasized they are not encouraging another stay-at-home order.
  • “We certainly saw the devastation of having a stay-at-home order and reducing healthcare services. People put off surgery, they put off the need to receive medical care and we are seeing those individuals today,” Roth said.
Image shown during joint health conference.


Rendecimere, plasma, and steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs are the therapies currently being used in Idaho hospitals.

The issue, Nemerson is supply and demand for certain medications. “Rend cannot be transported across state lines. The supply that we have is what we are stuck with for the moments and wer are strongly advocating that that regulation be changed nationally,” he said. He noted for now they have enough to treat everyone.

Nemerson also wanted to emphasize that there is currently no cure.

Anna Daly Gamboa - BoiseDev reporterhttps://boisedev.com/author/annadalygamboa/
Anna Daly Gamboa is a reporter for BoiseDev. She's an Emmy-wining former producer, and a professor at the College of Western Idaho. Contact her at [email protected].

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