Crisis-level hospital rationing ‘imminent’ for Boise-Nampa and Twin Falls

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean on Tuesday announced new COVID-19 rules for events

By: and - September 14, 2021 4:08 pm
A health care worker helps a patient at Saint Al's

A health care worker stands at the bedside of a patient in Saint Alphonsus Medical Center’s ICU on Sept. 9 in Boise. (Courtesy of Saint Alphonsus Medical Center)

Idaho’s top health official on Tuesday warned multiple times that hospital crisis rationing is “imminent” for the Treasure Valley and Magic Valley.

Hospitals in the Boise-Meridian-Nampa region and the Twin Falls region are at capacity — and often over capacity — for patients who need emergency, medical and critical care.

“Just to be clear, crisis standards of care affect all of us, not just COVID patients,” said Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen. “There are already many patients who have had to delay surgeries or other treatments, and during crisis standards of care, tough decisions are made about how to allocate scarce medical resources.”

Jeppesen and other health officials repeated the same message they have given the public all year: “The answer remains the same, choose to get vaccinated,” Jeppesen said. “For all of us, we also need to wear a mask indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.”

One after another, all of Idaho’s top public health officials quietly explained that Idaho is headed for calamity.

Not enough Idahoans are choosing to get vaccinated, despite overwhelming evidence that it prevents hospitalization and death. Nearly 100 people are on ventilators in Idaho. Case numbers are on the rise in teens, and younger Idahoans are dying from the coronavirus disease.

Chart showing the difference in deaths by age for 2020 and 2021. The share of deaths among Idahoans age 18 to 49 has doubled to 7.2%.
Chart showing the difference in deaths by age for 2020 and 2021. The share of Idaho COVID-19 deaths among Idahoans age 18 to 49 has doubled to 7.2% this year. (Courtesy of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare)


“The flow of sick people in hospitals continues to increase. It’s incredibly high, and the stress on the hospitals is very real,” said Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch. “We can all do these simple but important things: We can be careful … take care of ourselves, avoid activities that create the need for an unnecessary visit (to the hospital). Avoid using emergency departments as your place to get asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.”

And, she said, echoing all other public health officials at the state level: Get vaccinated, social distance and wear a mask.

Boise Mayor responds to crisis, setting new COVID-19 rules for events

On Tuesday afternoon, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean outlined updated COVID-19 policies for the state’s largest city, including a mask requirement for indoor and outdoor events with more than 250 people that have received a permit from the city or take place in a city facility. Proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test will also be required for larger events. 

The city will continue to require masks for staff and visitors in city buildings, a mandate put in place in July. 

The new policies only affect events that require a city of Boise permit. For instance, Boise State football games will not be affected by the changes because they are not events that require a city permit.

McLean praised the city’s residents for getting vaccinated and continuing to wear masks, even where not required. But more work can be done, especially regionally, she said.

“We need more from our state leadership, where standards and policy can have the biggest impact for the most Idahoans,” McLean said. “We need more from our regional neighbors, particularly in those communities where vaccination rates are too low, and where the unvaccinated are getting sick in record numbers and flooding our region’s hospitals here in Boise.”

The changes will take effect Friday.

McLean joins city officials throughout Idaho reconsidering mask mandates and other COVID-19 protocols during the state’s latest case surge. The Hailey City Council and Blaine County commissioners have voted in the last two days to reinstate a mask mandate in their jurisdictions, while Ketchum and Sun Valley will consider health orders of their own on Tuesday.

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Christina Lords
Christina Lords

Christina Lords is the editor-in-chief of the Idaho Capital Sun and has been a professional journalist covering local and state government since graduating from the University of Idaho in 2009. A Pocatello native, Lords is a fifth-generation Idahoan who served as a reporter at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and the Post Register in Idaho Falls and served as assistant editor for the Idaho Press in Nampa. She also led the Idaho Statesman in Boise for two years before turning to nonprofit journalism.

Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Dutton hails from Twin Falls. She attended college at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.