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Today in Idaho hospitals and COVID-19 (updated 9/12): Patients, ERs, ICUs

Health care worker in a PAPR (powered air-purifying respirator) attends to a patient with COVID-19 in the ICU at a Saint Alphonsus hospital in Boise on Sept. 9. (Courtesy of Saint Alphonsus Health System)
Health care worker in a PAPR (powered air-purifying respirator) attends to a patient with COVID-19 in the ICU at a Saint Alphonsus hospital in Boise on Sept. 9. (Courtesy of Saint Alphonsus Health System)

Get daily updates on Idaho hospital capacity, pediatric and adult COVID-19 hospitalizations

Idaho hospitals are reaching a breaking point in the fourth COVID-19 surge. The number of adults needing around-the-clock hospital care for coronavirus disease went past 600 last week and was approaching 650 by Saturday, Sept. 11.

On Saturday, 100 adults and three children were newly admitted with COVID-19, according to federal data from reports submitted by hospitals. That is the largest number of new admissions to date.

Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen on Labor Day activated “crisis standards of care” for the North Idaho region. He warned that hospitals in the rest of the state were so overloaded with patients, especially in their ICUs, that it may soon be necessary to activate crisis standards beyond North Idaho.

In the days since, the number of Idahoans getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines has not increased. It has instead declined each day, compared with last week’s numbers.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little told the Sun in a recent interview that he expects Idaho to receive about 400 more health care workers from federal contracts, to help ease the burden on understaffed hospitals. There has been no increase in the number of staffed beds statewide in the past week, as hospitals try to get by with their current staffing levels.

Almost every person hospitalized with COVID-19 is not fully vaccinated. Idaho’s largest hospital system, St. Luke’s, says that between 93% and 96% of its COVID-19 patients over the past two weeks were unvaccinated. In its ICUs, unvaccinated people made up 96% to 98% of COVID-19 patients.

State data show that Idahoans who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are 6.4 times less likely to be hospitalized than those who aren’t, based on hospitalization rates since May. A total of 10,316 people have been hospitalized in Idaho with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to state data. That’s about 1 in every 178 Idahoans.

Federal data show the following, based on reports submitted by hospitals for Saturday, Sept. 11. Almost every hospital in the state that is capable of taking COVID-19 patients reported its numbers that day. For quick visual reference, numbers in black are unchanged from the previous day, numbers in red are worsened, and numbers in green are improved.

      • Idaho hospitals with a critical staffing shortage: 4 (previous day: 4)
      • People hospitalized with COVID-19: 654 (previous day: 623) which is 26.6% (previous day: 24.9%) of people hospitalized for all reasons
      • Adults in the ICU with COVID-19: 170 (previous day: 172)
      • Children hospitalized with COVID-19: 8 (previous day: 8)
      • Patients newly admitted to the hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID-19: 103 (previous day: 97)Children: 3 (previous day: 0)
        Age 18-19: 2 (previous day: 3)20s: 5 (previous day: 4)30s: 7 (previous day: 4)40s: 13 (previous day: 13)50s: 19 (previous day: 12)60s: 22 (previous day: 21)70s: 22 (previous day: 25)80+: 10 (previous day: 12)age unknown: 3 (previous day: 3)
      • People who died in Idaho hospitals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19: 11 (previous day: 9)

Note: These numbers may differ from those reported by the state, local public health districts or individual hospitals. There are multiple reasons for this: Some agencies use different methods and data sources. Some Idaho hospitals may be behind on reporting through the federal portal from which the Sun gets its data, which can result in revisions to the previous one to three days’ totals. The federal data use the most recent numbers reported by each hospital in the previous four-day period. The rationale is to get the numbers as close as possible to being accurate; for example, it reduces the risk of hospitalizations appearing to plummet if a large hospital misses a day of reporting. Hospital census always fluctuates as patients are admitted, discharged, moved to and from the ICU, and remain hospitalized for ongoing care.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.