Current News



How Idaho hospitals reached crisis 18 months into pandemic

Rachel Roberts, The Idaho Statesman on

Published in News & Features

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare implemented crisis standards of care statewide this week as the state's health care systems have become overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Sadly, officials predict the peak is yet to come.

"The numbers continue to increase, they continue to increase at an alarmingly fast rate, and we cannot see a peak in sight," Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said at a news briefing Tuesday.

On Thursday, Jeppesen said, "We don't have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals."

Since early July, COVID-19 case numbers have been on a rapid rise. On Wednesday, Idaho's seven-day moving average stood at 1,245.7 cases per day, an increase of more than 2,400% from a low of 49.7 cases per day on July 5.

There were a record 678 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Idaho on Monday, including a record-tying 173 in intensive care, according to data from Health and Welfare. Those numbers are likely underreported, as only 45 facilities provided data on Monday. Health and Welfare shows data on other days from as many as 52 facilities.

The hospitalization high last year was 496 on Dec. 1.

As of Wednesday, there were 12 adult ICU beds left open in the entire state, staffed and available for occupancy.


St. Luke's Health System had 245 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday, which accounted for 40% of its total hospitalized patients (245 of 608). Unvaccinated individuals made up 91.84% of those hospitalizations.

There were 61 COVID-19 patients in intensive care at St. Luke's, making up 78% of the health system's ICU patients (61 of 78). Of those in the ICU, 96.72% were unvaccinated.

Among the 456 patients hospitalized in the Saint Alphonsus Health System on Wednesday, 144 individuals — 31.58% — were being treated for COVID-19.

For COVID-19 cases reported in Idaho from May 15 through Sept. 11, 89.9% (39,256 of 43,672 total cases) were among individuals who were not fully vaccinated, according to Health and Welfare. Unvaccinated individuals accounted for 91.1% of COVID-19 hospitalizations (1,683 of 1,847) during that same time period and 88% of deaths (316 of 359).

Only about 50.5% of Idahoans 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 63.3% nationally. Idaho ranks near the bottom of the country for vaccination percentage, beating out only Alabama, West Virginia and Wyoming, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Thursday, Idaho had lost 2,560 residents to the virus, with a case fatality rate of about 1.07%.

Idaho's statewide COVID-19 test positivity rate, which is updated on Thursdays, was 14.5% on 41,171 tests for the week of Aug. 29-Sept. 4. The positivity rate has increased every week since a low of 2.8% for June 13-19. A positivity rate greater than 5% indicates lack of control over the spread of the virus.

(c)2021 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.