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Idaho healthcare leaders plead for coronavirus mask mandate

Officials from the five largest medical care providers in southwestern Idaho also urged residents to push local and state government leaders for mandates

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho healthcare leaders pleaded for a statewide mask mandate on Tuesday, saying it’s the best way to slow a rapid increase in coronavirus cases.

The officials from the five largest medical care providers in southwestern Idaho also urged residents to push local and state government leaders for mandates.

Chris Roth, president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, said they have seen a steady increase in coronavirus-related hospital admissions over the last few weeks.

"On June 26, we had 20 COVID-19-related admissions, on July 2 we had 40, on July 7 we had 51, and today we have 77," Roth said. "We see no change in this trend."

Healthcare leaders expressed concerns that the increase in hospitalizations could soon overwhelm Idaho's healthcare system.

"Today is the day to show you the COVID train has left the station," said Dr. Steven Nemerson, the chief clinical officer for Saint Alphonsus. "Idaho is well on its way to becoming another New York, California, Texas or Arizona. 

"But we have the opportunity to turn that train around," Nemerson added, saying that if everyone wore a face-covering in public, case numbers would drop significantly.

Gov. Brad Little has so far been unswayed: Spokeswoman Marissa Morrison says he has no plans for a statewide mask mandate at this time, though several cities, including Boise, have implemented orders requiring face coverings in public places.

On Tuesday, Central District Health issued an mask mandate for all of Ada County.

RELATED: Central District Health approves mandate requiring face masks in Ada County

The healthcare leaders stressed the dire situation faced by hospitals as COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations continue to increase.

"We predict that within one month's time we will see a doubling of our total in-patient volume," Nemerson said. "So let's say by Labor Day we would expect as much as 50% of our total in-patient volume across all of Saint Alphonsus Health Systems will be consumed by patients who have coronavirus."

Another main concern healthcare leaders discussed on Tuesday's call, was the number of hospital staff getting sick because of community spread.

"We had gone from a month ago from having 25 of our colleagues being quarantined to today we sit at 123, and we don't have other colleagues to go find that know our system," said Odette Bolano, president and CEO of Saint Alphonsus Health System.

A tally by Johns Hopkins University shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state has nearly doubled in the past two weeks to more than 11,400.

RELATED: Some Washington residents travel to Idaho to avoid face mask mandate

RELATED: St. Luke's nurse practitioner dies after complications from COVID-19, youngest person in Idaho to die from it

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