IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK)-With pressure growing on regional hospitals, the East Idaho Public Health District is expressing growing concern about the spread of COVID-19 and the district’s response to it.
In action Thursday, the board moved all but one regional county (Clark) into the moderate risk category and called for a full review of its entire plan.
The board approved an order moving Lemhi, Custer, and Teton Counties into a Yellow, or Moderate Risk category. That will require face coverings in public places and a limit on the size of gatherings. Bonneville, Fremont, Jefferson, and Madison Counties are already in the moderate risk category.
Idaho’s test-positivity rate, per 100,000, is 6.7%. The eastern Idaho rate is 16%.
Idaho Falls Community Hospital (IFCH) and Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) both report an uptick in the severity of cases. While running close to intensive care capacity, they say the significant impact of COVID-19 hospitalizations is on hospital staff.
Idaho Falls Community Hospital reported having six COVID-19 patients in ICU beds, four on ventilators, and seven more in other hospital beds. EIRMC reported having seven ICU patients and 12 more in other patient beds. All of those require a higher level of care than other types of patients.
IFCH was in the process of building its staff when the COVID-19 virus began impacting health care last winter. It is now operating at about 55% of full-staff.
EIRMC officials also explained that COVID-19 patients require longer and more intensive care. Madison Memorial Hospital also voiced concern about protecting its resources in the face of increasing demands.
Hospital administrators said it is very difficult to recruit high level nursing staff because of a national demand. EIRMC said it hired 150 people recently and is waiting for those people to arrive on staff.
EIPH Director Geri Rackow said she is very concerned about the level of stress being placed on regional hospitals. And, Rackow said she was discouraged with people’s reluctance to voluntarily comply with mitigation strategies and on the district’s ability to enforce them.
Health District board members also expressed concern Thursday about the effectiveness of existing COVID-19 plan.
The board plans to re-evaluate its entire COVID-19 response plan and its next steps next week.
Update: This story has been updated to include updated numbers of COVID-19 patients at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.