Today in Idaho hospitals and COVID-19 (updated 1/24): Patients, ERs, ICUs

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

By: - January 24, 2022 1:27 pm
Photo of Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise

Boise’s Saint Alphonsus hospital is the trauma center for the region. Its emergency department, medical units and ICU are strained once more as COVID-19 cases increase again. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Editor’s note: The Idaho Capital Sun publishes this daily update on Idaho hospitals on weekdays.

It took barely two months for Idaho to revert back to crisis standards of care, as hospitals once again fill with COVID-19 patients and grapple with staffing shortages.

Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen activated crisis standards for the Treasure Valley, Magic Valley and Wood River Valley.

The crisis is worsened by a shortage of blood supplies, in Idaho and nationwide, and by staffing shortages at nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, where hospitals often send patients who no longer need hospitalization but aren’t well enough to send home.

Faster spreading than any other virus among humans, the omicron variant of the coronavirus is infecting people at record speeds. That means hospital workers have to stay out of work because they’re sick, in quarantine, or home with sick or quarantined family members. That causes a staffing problem.

Combined with the growing number of COVID-19 infections severe enough to need hospital care, Idaho health care is in a crunch.

Child hospitalizations with COVID-19 are rising faster than those of adults, as the omicron variant surges through Idaho.

Many children aren’t yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot.

“We are seeing more sick children (in the hospital),” Dr. James Souza, chief physician executive, said in a media briefing this month. “I’d point out, though, that that is probably, almost certainly, just a side effect of the huge number” of cases among children, as opposed to a sign that omicron is more virulent in kids, he said.

Infants and young children cannot be vaccinated. They also have smaller airways than adults, Souza noted. The omicron variant seems to more easily attack the upper airways, which causes symptoms similar to “croup,” a common ailment in young children that can result in hospitalization.

“And we’re also seeing and children … with vomiting and diarrhea as a presenting symptom of COVID,” he said.

Just one month after emerging from its first-ever hospital crisis declaration, Idaho is heading back in the wrong direction.

Idaho hospitals reported more than 500 patients with COVID-19 over the weekend. They started this month with a total of about 250 coronavirus patients each day.

The increased contagiousness of omicron also means that some Idahoans who need hospital care for unrelated reasons test positive for the virus incidentally.

But emergency room data from hospitals in the past three weeks demonstrate that Idahoans are showing up at hospitals sick with COVID-19, not because they broke an arm and happen to test positive.

Most patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to data from St. Luke’s Health System, which is the largest medical provider in the Idaho.

It's not too late to get the vaccine.

– Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch

Public health officials and physicians urge Idahoans to get vaccinated, and for people who are already fully vaccinated to get boosters. Research has shown that post-vaccine immunity can keep omicron in check, preventing hospitalization.

The trend in Idaho COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICUs and deaths

Federal data show the following, based on reports from hospitals on Monday, Jan. 24. (See “Notes” below for additional information about the data.)

The numbers here are 7-day rolling averages. The larger the difference between current and previous rolling average, the faster that metric is changing. Numbers in black are unchanged from the previous day’s rolling average, numbers in red are worsened, and numbers in green are improved.

  • People hospitalized with COVID-19: 485 (previous: 469) which is 20.8% (previous: 20.1%) of people hospitalized for all reasons
  • Adults in the ICU with COVID-19: 97 (previous: 95)
  • Children hospitalized with COVID-19: 19 (previous: 18)
  • Patients admitted to the hospital each day, with confirmed or suspected COVID-19: 80 (previous: 77)
  • Patients newly admitted with COVID-19 each day, by age:
    Children: 4 (previous: 4)
    Age 18-19: 1 (previous: 1)
    20s: 6 (previous: 6)
    30s: 6 (previous: 6)
    40s: 7 (previous: 6)
    50s: 10 (previous: 9)
    60s: 13 (previous: 12)
    70s: 18 (previous: 17)
    80+: 15 (previous: 15)
    age unknown: 1 (previous: 1)
  • People who died in Idaho hospitals each day, with confirmed or suspected COVID-19: 5 (previous: 4)
  • Staffed adult ICU beds that were still available statewide, according to Idaho Department of Health and Welfare data: 36 (previous: 24)Data from Jan. 21 and Jan. 20

The rolling-average daily numbers for influenza:

  • People hospitalized with the flu: 3 (previous: 3) which is 0.1% (previous: 0.1%) of people hospitalized for all reasons
  • People hospitalized with the flu and COVID: 0 (previous: 0) which is 0.0% (previous: 0.0%) of people hospitalized for all reasons
  • People newly admitted with the flu: 0 (previous: 0)
  • ICU patients with the flu: 1 (previous: 1)
  • Flu deaths in Idaho hospitals: 0 (previous: 0)

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. Hospital census always fluctuates as patients are admitted, discharged, moved to and from the ICU, and remain hospitalized for ongoing care. And 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 provide numbers that are as accurate as possible; for example, it reduces the risk that hospitalizations appear to plummet when a large hospital misses a day of reporting.)

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You can also visit the Idaho Division of Public Health’s dashboard to see other metrics on the Idaho COVID-19 situation.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Idaho, ICU capacity, and adults and kids in the hospital

 

Idaho hospital COVID-19 data

Gritman Medical Center: gritman.org/coronavirus
Kootenai Health: kh.org/covid-19
Saint Alphonsus Health System: saintalphonsus.org/coronavirus
St. Joseph Regional Medical Center: sjrmc.org/covid-19-updates
St. Luke’s Health System: stlukesonline.org/covid19

Questions or comments? Reach reporter Audrey Dutton at [email protected].

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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.

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