By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
It has been five weeks since crisis standards of care were activated in North Idaho, as health care facilities became so strained by an uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations that it became necessary to ration limited resources to patients with the most dire needs. This week also marks nearly a month since those same standards were activated statewide.
COVID-19 has been steadily on the rise in Idaho since August, when the highly contagious Delta variant gained a foothold in the state’s population. According to the Idaho Statesman, some health officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the current spike is headed for a downslope based on declining test positivity rates. Still, a steady stream of Idahoans are being hospitalized with the disease.
Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer at Saint Alphonsus Health System in Boise, told the Statesman during a media briefing Oct. 12 that life without COVID remains elusive in Idaho.
“Today I’m here to tell you that we’ve lost the war,” he said. “The reason it is here to stay is because we cannot vaccinate enough of the public to fully eradicate the disease. And absent being able to do that … we now need to move into the phase of recognizing that COVID is going to be a disease to be managed for the long-term future.”
As of Oct. 13, Idaho reported 805,902 residents fully vaccinated against the virus — amounting to about 53% of the population over age 12, as compared to the 66% national figure. In Bonner County, that number is 46%.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced Oct. 13 that he’d proclaimed October “Idaho Health Care Worker Appreciation Month.” In a media release, Little “encouraged all Idahoans to seek out the health care workers in their lives and communities and show their respect, appreciation, and support for the sacrifices health care workers are making to get us through an unprecedented public health crisis.”
Little is traveling the state this week to meet and thank a variety of Idaho’s health care workers. While the governor has been a steadfast supporter of the COVID-19 vaccine — having received one himself in January 2021 — Idaho does not currently have any vaccine mandates in place, and Little has announced that his office is “exploring legal action” against President Joe Biden for the federal administration’s vaccine requirements.
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