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Coronavirus hospitalizations in the Magic Valley reach record highs

"We've had a six-fold increase in hospitalizations in the last couple of weeks," a doctor at St. Luke's Magic Valley said.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — As new daily COVID-19 cases continue to trend upward statewide, hospitalizations due to the virus are reaching new record highs in the Magic Valley.

Dr. Joshua Kern with St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center told KTVB that 29 or 30 patients at the hospital were being treated for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

As a point of reference, only five patients were being treated in late August.

"It's 20% of the patients in the hospital have COVID-19," Kern said. "So we've had a six-fold increase in hospitalizations in the last couple of weeks."

Hospital administrators are especially worried about what's to come.

"I'm worried more because I'm not convinced that people are taking it seriously enough," Kern said.

St. Luke's Magic Valley isn't worried so much about bed space, but they are troubled by the toll it's taking on their staff.

"Because what happens is when the community spread gets high enough, you start getting sick employees," Kern said. "And that's what we're seeing."

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The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Magic Valley doubled in the month of September - from 187 cases reported in the last week of August - to a total of 471 by the end of September.

On September 24, South Central Public Health District recorded its largest single-day case jump: 151 cases.

"I guess the question is when will it slow down," Kern said.

The jump in numbers is especially concerning to Dr. Kern, considering hospitalizations tend to trail one to two weeks behind the onset of the virus. That means the worst could still be to come.

"How long can you keep up? That's the remaining question," Kern said. "It just puts us in a bad place. We're not staffed for pandemics, we're staffed for normal operations."

The hospital is seeing patients, not just from Twin Falls County, but from surrounding counties as well.

According to the health district, the virus is primarily being spread through people who contract it at work or at a social event, and then unintentionally bring the disease home to their families.

One way to help prevent the spread of the virus is for everyone to wear masks in public. Kern stressed that masks are very effective at slowing the spread of the virus.

"I know that back in July, when people started wearing more masks when we were having more cases, and into August, the cases went down," he said. "The hospital lightened up. We can control it as a community.  We've done it already."

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