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Primary Health temporarily closing four clinics while juggling increased COVID-19 testing

The closures come at the tail-end of a very busy week for the company as the spread of the omicron variant has increased demand for testing services.

BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

Due to staff being out with COVID-19, Primary Health Medical Group is temporarily closing four locations.

The clinic closed its Ten Mile and Eagle locations on Friday, said Chryssa Rich, director of marketing and communications for the company. Starting Saturday, the clinic’s Caldwell and downtown Boise locations will be closed for the weekend and through at least the next week, Rich said.

Potential visitors should check Primary Health’s locations page for the most up-to-date information on closures and hours, Rich said.

The closures come at the tail-end of a very busy week for the company as the spread of the omicron variant has increased demand for testing services throughout the Treasure Valley, as previously reported by the Idaho Press.

By 9 a.m. each day, it’s possible to gauge how busy Primary Health Medical Group’s clinics will be based on visits to the clinic’s website, Rich said.

Web traffic tends to be highest Monday, then decreases gradually over the course of the week, Rich said. But this week was different. Web traffic was higher than normal on Monday, and crept higher each day, accompanied by a deluge of in-person visitors seeking COVID-19 tests.

From Monday through Wednesday, health care providers at Primary Health’s facilities across the Treasure Valley tested a total of 7,000 people for COVID-19, with a whopping 30-33% testing positive, said Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Primary Health Medical Group. The figure includes results from rapid antigen tests as well as PCR tests, both of which are administered at Primary Health clinics, Peterman said.

With that high of a positivity rate, it means over 2,000 people tested positive, which is a huge number, Peterman said. With that many people testing positive, even if most cases are mild, there will still be a significant group of people who will develop severe symptoms and require hospitalization, he said.

“The crisis is incredible,” Peterman said. “The public will feel it in maybe seven days or less from now.

“Just by the sheer numbers, it is going to overwhelm our health care system,” Peterman said. “That’s what we’re seeing in Minneapolis and New York.”

Idaho hospital officials this week reported increasing hospitalizations and increases in the number of staff who are out due COVID-19, as previously reported by the Idaho Press. And hospital officials in the state are anticipating having to enter crisis standards of care earlier than they did during the delta surge.

As of Friday afternoon, over 10% of Primary Health’s staff was out due to COVID-19, Peterman said. 

To complicate matters, Primary Health's clinics were running low on antigen tests Friday morning, the rapid tests that produce results in 15 minutes. Peterman spent his morning calling around locally and across the country, hoping to secure more tests. He received word that his clinics would receive an additional 3,000 antigen tests on Saturday. Next week, they are supposed to receive a much larger shipment of over 25,000 tests, he said.

The clinics also offer PCR tests, and have maintained a turnaround time of 48 hours or less for results even as wait times elsewhere have stretched farther. Though Peterman is not confident his labs will be able to maintain that through testing demand and staffing shortages, they are in a good position for now, he said.

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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