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Idaho coronavirus hospitalization rates expected to rise, experts say

Hospitals in Idaho are currently well-prepared to treat patients for coronavirus. However, staff shortage is always a risk.

BOISE, Idaho — In Idaho, 221 COVID-19 patients are currently in the hospital, according to the latest hospitalization data from Oct. 14. Of those patients, 55 are currently in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Graphs from the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare show that COVID-19 related hospitalizations have been rising since late September. 

That upward trend is likely to continue, according to former CEO of St. Luke's Health Systems and Idaho coronavirus task force member Dr. David Pate.

“Now cases are higher even than they were in the second spike and, of course now that cases are going up, in another one to three weeks, we are going to see a big increase in hospitalizations again on top of what we have already got,” Pate said.

For now, Idaho hospitals are, for the most part, well prepared to treat patients with COVID-19. Should they become overwhelmed, however, there are backup procedures in place.

“Hospitals can decide to just stop providing other non-emergency services and so that can free up some capacity,” Pate said. “The other thing is we do have capabilities at hospitals to convert space that we ordinarily wouldn’t use for patient care or ICU care."

Though hospitals are equipped to treat patients, staff shortages are always a risk.

“The important thing to keep in mind is we are limited by staff,” Pate said. “You can have all the beds you want, but if you don’t have doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists to take care of people, then you still end up in trouble.”

To prevent hospitals from exceeding capacity, Idahoans should continue to wear a mask in public, keep at least six feet of distance from others and take recommended precautionary measures such as getting a flu shot, according to Pate.

“We have already had confirmed cases of influenza in the Treasure Valley and we know that as people get that, they will be hospitalized,” he said.

Gretchen Parsons is an anchor, reporter and producer at KTVB since 2016. You can follow her on Instagram @gretchenparsonsKTVB or  @gretchenKTVB on Twitter.

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