Health officials in Idaho report dire circumstances as hospitals across the state continue to collapse amid the Delta-fueled surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We continue to make record highs,” said Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, in a press conference on Tuesday. With the latest data as of September 18, the state posted a new record high of 686 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, a record high of 180 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, and a record high of 112 COVID-19 patients on ventilators. The number of COVID-19 patients ventilated is almost double what it was in the last surge in COVID-19 cases in December.
“These numbers keep increasing and we expect they will keep increasing,” added Jeppesen.
The daily average of new cases is currently around 1,200, an increase of 25 percent in the past two weeks, so Data tracking from the New York Times. Hospital stays are up 34 percent and the current average number of deaths per day is 22, an increase of 223 percent.
Last Thursday the health department Extension of the application of crisis management standards to the entire federal state. Previously, the health department had enabled the standards that allow sub-optimal supply and rationing of resources such as ventilators for only 10 hospitals in the severely affected northern region of Gem State. Now, hospitals across the country are facing rushes of patients, staff shortages and a shortage of beds.
“Bottom line, our inpatient facilities are gradually becoming COVID hospitals, and so is the rest of the state,” said James P. Souza, chief medical officer of St. Luke’s health system.
Dr. Souza gave a somber account of what healthcare providers are now doing in Idaho hospitals. In the St. Luke System, which includes several hospitals across the state, COVID-19 patients made up only 8 percent of adult hospitalizations in July, but now they make up 67 percent. “This is an unprecedented event in modern medicine,” he said. In the system’s intensive care units, the proportion of COVID-19 patients rose from 17 percent to a current high of 70 percent.
The patients themselves are younger and sicker than the previous increase, Souza said. Of 51 COVID-19 patients in the system’s intensive care units, 36 are under 55 and 13 are under 40. The hospital system is also using more invasive treatments than before. Souza attributed this to the younger age of patients trying to use all possible methods to survive their infections. “If we’re honest, 40-year-olds have never thought of death,” he said.
The system also sees more complications from severe COVID-19 infections, including clotting disorders and kidney damage. The average length of stay in the intensive care unit has also increased from around six to eight days. Souza estimated that 30 percent of patients will recover in the long term.
More patients are also dying. With previous increases, the death rate among COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit has been around 28 percent, Souza said. But in the current increase it is 43 percent. There have been 80 COVID-19 deaths in the system since early September – four daily – of which 35 in the last week. Calculating the estimated years of life lost for people who just died in September – assuming they would otherwise have had an average life expectancy – amounts to more than 1,100 years of life lost.
“For the people who say we all die at some point: yes we do,” said Souza. “But these people didn’t have to die now, and they didn’t have to die like this.”
Of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 90 percent are unvaccinated, as are 98 percent of the intensive care patients. Of the vaccinated COVID-19 patients, many have weakened immune systems, such as organ transplant patients and people actively being treated for cancer.
The unvaccinated are by no means the only ones suffering from this overwhelming wave. Health Department Director Jeppesen stated in an emotional appeal that his mother had suffered a stroke and a fall on Thursday when crisis standards came into force across the country. His mother went to an emergency room and saw people being treated in the waiting room. She had to wait longer than normal for care and was treated in a “non-traditional” area of the hospital. Although the hospital would normally have kept his mother under observation overnight, she was released that same day instead. Although he reported that his mother appeared to be recovering well, the stroke was more stressful than usual.
“We are so lucky to have such talented medical professionals in Idaho,” said Jeppesen, his voice breaking with emotion. “And the same health care professionals need our help. You need the unvaccinated to please consider vaccination. “
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