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Eastern Idaho doctor pens op-ed after COVID-19 cases spike in Madison County, home of BYU-Idaho

Over the last seven days, the county has reported an averaged of 181 cases for every 100,000 people, up from 20 a month ago.

MADISON COUNTY, IDAHO, Idaho — Madison County in Eastern Idaho is the home of Bringham Young University-Idaho and maybe 40,000 total residents scattered across 473 square miles. The county doesn't crack the top ten most populous counties in the Gem State but is now in the top five for most COVID-19 cases in the state.

The county isn't just a hotspot for Idaho, but for the whole country. Over the last seven days, the county has reported an averaged of 181 cases for every 100,000 people, up from 20 a month ago. As of Wednesday, Madison County reported 258 total cases this week, which is more than Ada County.

On Wednesday, KTVB spoke with Dr. Kenneth Krell, an intensive care specialist at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, which is the referral hospital for the surrounding areas. Lately, a lot more COVID-19 cases are arriving in from Madison County.

Dr. Krell has been at EIR-MC for nearly 40 years and he's seen health crises before. He was there during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, even contracting it and developed a rheumatoid disease because of it.

This spring, he stopped taking his immuno-suppressant medicine just so he could care for COVID-19 patients. That was also about the time he started writing op-ed pieces for the local paper.

He's written several of them because he feels like when he sees something, he should say something to try to reinforce the realities of what this pandemic looks like from the health care side of it.

In part, Dr. Krell wrote:

"Madison County's death rate will undoubtedly increase, however, as that low-risk group secondarily spreads cases to the more vulnerable population over the next several weeks. I find it perplexing that the age group who leads the way in other areas of social responsibility, such as climate change and equality for all individuals regardless of race, can be so cavalier about their most immediate challenge — that of protecting the entire community, including the most vulnerable among us." 

So what has he seen lately that lead to publishing his opinion piece yesterday? COVID-19 is much more dangerous than the community recognizes and the younger generation has become a bigger concern.

"That's the point I want to get across to them. They're responsible in other areas, they're concerned socially in other areas. They've got to see this as their most immediate social concern at this point," Dr. Krell told Holmes on Wednesday.

Editor's Note: Watch the video above to view Brian Holmes' interview with Dr. Krell.

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