Mayor Lauren McLean signaled a new plan to curb the spread of the pandemic in Boise is coming soon.
On Tuesday, McLean heard a briefing from local healthcare executives on the rapidly growing number of COVID-19 cases in Ada County and throughout the state. They gave a similar picture to the public about growing numbers of health care workers out sick and rising percentages of patients in the hospital sick with COVID-19.
McLean did not announce any immediate plans for new restrictions or other measures to slow the virus, but hinted at an announcement in the coming days. She said Boise alone cannot affect the course of the entire Treasure Valley or Idaho as a whole, but the city should do all it can.
“Our goal is rather than shutting everything down, using an axe if you will, we want to use a scalpel and look at how we can come up with a framework in partnership with businesses that allows us celebrate, partner and to support those that are doing well and provide them the help they need when customers refuse to comply with rules we have in place,” she said.
Hospitals stretched to their limits
Leaders from St. Luke’s Health System, Saint Alphonsus Health System and Primary Health Medical Group shared stories from their overwhelmed facilities and asked the public to take more precautions. St. Al’s President and CEO Odette Bolano said health care workers are getting sick out in the community, instead of on the job inside COVID units.
“We need our healthcare workers,” Bolano said. “They don’t have a choice. They’re here to serve this community and when the community doesn’t respect the need to keep our people safe so they can do their job, it’s a little bit disheartening I have to tell you.”
St. Luke’s CEO Dr. Jim Souza said the number of COVID-19 patients in St. Luke’s has risen rapidly in the past few weeks. According to their modeling, he expects 30% more patients than we already have by the first week of December.
Souza said St. Luke’s has once again postponed non-emergency surgeries, like joint replacements and some surgeries that detect curable conditions like cancer, until after Christmas. The St. Luke’s hospital in Twin Falls has been periodically diverting patients to Boise because they cannot take any more.
As the virus spreads, Souza said the hospital system will be forced to convert more and more of its resources into space to treat COVID-19 patients at the expense of other medical needs. If things become more dire, it will force the health care system to begin rationing care because they cannot keep up with the demand.
“People expect our services will be here just in case,” Souza said. “Just in case your dad falls and breaks his hip. Just in case your mom has a stroke. Just in case your spouse gets COVID and happens to be in the unlucky minority that gets really sick. If crisis standards are implemented people are going to be caught by surprise because these sorts of therapies might not be available.”
3,000 calls per day to Primary Health clincs
David Peterman, CEO of Primary Health Group, said what his clinics see is a good indicator of what will hit the hospitals in roughly ten days as people who test positive develop more severe symptoms. Right now, Primary Health is seeing tests come back at record 20% positive rates and the clinics are overwhelmed with phone calls.
Primary Health has had to close six of its clinics because they couldn’t keep up with staffing. Currently the company has roughly 40 staff members out sick on a daily basis due to the pandemic.
A few weeks ago, his clinics were getting 1,800 calls per day for tests or asking about other concerns. Now, it’s roughly 3,000 daily and his staff can barely keep up.
“People are getting to the level of being close to desperate,” he said. At least 773 Idahoans have died from COVID-19 and the state has recorded 71,578 confirmed cases as of November 16, according to the Idaho Statesman. The positivity rate between November 1 and November 7 was 16.9%.