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Health officials warn Southeast Idaho hospitals nearing high capacity

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KIFI/KIDK

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The biggest threat COVID-19 poses to our healthcare system is the potential that hospitals will fill up, leaving people without consistent access to medical help.

Now, Southeastern Idaho Public Health is warning that threat is looming over area hospitals.

In the district's Board of Health meeting Friday, experts from Bingham Memorial Hospital and Portneuf Medical Center stressed they are concerned with their capacity levels.

Beds are not full and ventilator capacity is stable, district director Maggie Mann said. However, the number of active COVID-19 cases have risen exponentially in Bannock and Bingham counties during September.

Since Aug. 31, Bannock County's active cases (currently infected) has risen from 70 people to 205 as of Monday. In Bingham County during the same three-week period, cases rose from 51 to 266.

“That's probably to be expected because we just had Labor Day, we just had schools come back into session in the last couple weeks. Of course, our goal has never been to eliminate the virus, we know that’s a totally unreasonable hope,” Mann said.

But Mann is concerned that if these trends continue, coronavirus hospitalizations will keep rising, taking away space for other sick people.

“Something as serious as a heart attack, or maybe some kind of trauma or broken bone, or delivering a baby, we want to make sure that care remains accessible and intact,” Mann said.

Portneuf Medical Center's chief medical officer, Daniel Snell, said the hospital is at a higher capacity than is typical for this time of year.

“Our buffer has been, not used up, but is getting less and less heading into a time of high volumes,” Snell said.

Historically, hospitals see a high number of patients in the last quarter of the year--October, November and December. So, if the hospital is already nearing straining capacity in September, the next few months could be difficult for health care workers.

That's why Snell and Mann are reminding people to stick with COVID-19 precautions. Snell emphasized getting a flu shot in order to help keep flu patients to a minimum this season.

There are currently 17 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Southeastern Idaho Public Health District, as of Monday.

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Emma Iannacone

Emma is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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