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Viewpoint: Top health experts weigh in on the coronavirus situation in Idaho

Two Treasure Valley health experts weigh in on the key issues of the day, including the rising number of coronavirus cases and what hospitals are facing right now.

BOISE, Idaho — Two leading Treasure Valley health experts weigh in on the key issues of the day, including the rising number of coronavirus cases, what hospitals are facing right now, how testing is going and the importance of wearing masks.

Below are two excerpts from the interviews with retired St. Luke's Health System CEO Dr. David Pate and St. Alphonsus Health System Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Steven Nemerson.

Doug Petcash: What is your biggest concern as the number of new daily coronavirus cases remains high in Idaho?

Dr. David Pate: The biggest concern is that what follows an increase in cases is an increase in hospitalizations a few weeks later and increases in deaths. We're already starting to see the increased hospitalizations. We've got more people hospitalized than at any time during this and I'm afraid it's only going to grow. That will put additional pressure on our hospitals, and if it's extreme, it could certainly impact care. And then, of course, I'm not sure that Idahoans have their mindset prepared for the number of deaths that could follow.

Doug Petcash: Dr. Nemerson, on the day Central District Health enacted the mask mandate for Ada County, we reported that you made a passionate plea for all Idahoans to wear face coverings. You said, "the COVID train has left the station." And paraphrasing now, that we have time to turn the train around if people would wear masks. That was nearly two weeks ago. Do you think the Ada County mask mandate is working based on the numbers you're seeing?

Dr. Steven Nemerson: Doug, it's a little too soon to be sure, but I can tell you that there is some evidence that it's at least maintained some degree of control of the overall growth of COVID in our community. At the time that I spoke to you two weeks ago, we had a community prevalence that was equal to what we're seeing now, extraordinarily high, but at least we've seen no worse incidence of COVID in our community.

Dr. Nemerson also serves on the governor's Coronavirus Testing Task Force.
Dr. Pate serves on the governor's Coronavirus Working Group.

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