Hospitals in the Treasure Valley and Magic Valley could soon be rationing scarce health care resources if COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, a top Idaho health official said Tuesday.
“The reality is without a course change we will be entering Crisis Standards Care soon in those areas,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters in a news conference.
He said hospitalizations in Southwest District Health, Central District Health and South Central Public Health District “are reaching a critical point.”
“Without a change in direction, Crisis Standards of Care are imminent for all three of those health districts,” Jeppesen said.
On Labor Day, Jeppesen activated the state’s hospital disaster plan, known as Crisis Standards of Care, for hospitals in north Idaho. He has warned for weeks that Idaho hospitals are “dangerously close” to statewide rationed care. He said Tuesday that a crisis declaration could be isolated to a region or encompass the entire state, depending on the situation.
“Just to be clear, Crisis Standards of Care affect all of us, not just COVID patients. There are already many patients who had to delay surgeries or other treatments. And during Crisis Standards of Care, tough decisions are made for how to allocate scarce medical resources,” he said.
Jeppesen said everyone should be careful and “reconsider activities that could land you in the hospital.” He encouraged people to take the COVID-19 vaccine and to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor places.
The remarks come after another disastrous week for COVID-19 measures. He said COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICU use by COVID-19 patients and ventilator use have all risen.
About 89% of Idaho’s intensive care unit beds were full Tuesday, according to federal data. The same data from the Department of Health and Human Services says COVID-19 patients used 57% of staffed adult ICU beds in Idaho hospitals and 20% of all inpatient beds across hospitals.
Idaho’s top public health researcher Dr. Christine Hahn said “more and more” hospitals have told state officials that “they do not have enough staff to open up more ICU beds.”
There were 613 patients being treated for COVID-19 in Idaho hospitals on Sept. 13, according to state data. That is the highest that number has ever been. Hospitalizations have regularly been setting such records lately. On that same day, 172 patients were being treated in Idaho intensive care units. The vast majority of people who contract COVID-19, get hospitalized with the virus or die from it are unvaccinated.
“The numbers continue to increase, they continue to increase at an alarmingly fast rate, and we do not see a peak in sight,” Jeppesen said.
Coronavirus cases in Idaho teenagers, aged 13 to 17, rose to 630 last week, the highest rate ever seen, said Dr. Kathryn Turner, one of Idaho’s top public health researchers. Compared to other age groups, cases are rising fastest among Idaho teens, she said. She said the rise in cases in younger children are “not far behind.”
Meanwhile, deaths from the virus have shifted from predominately older people last year to younger people this year, she explained. Less than one in 10 coronavirus deaths occur in people aged 18 to 49 years old, data she provided shows, but the rate has more than doubled from April to this month compared to the same time period last year.
In Idaho so far, more than 235,000 residents have contracted COVID-19 and at least 2,485 have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic, state data shows.
Idaho has added more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases each day over the past week, according to the Post Register’s tracking of state public health data.
Idaho’s seven-day daily case average hit 1,182 on Monday, state data indicates. The Gem State’s case rate has grown by nearly 51% this month and about 1,613% since July 1, when the state was adding only 69 new cases each day.
Hahn said a monoclonal antibody treatment center will open Wednesday in north Idaho. The state recently received an application for a center that is planned for eastern Idaho, she said. Hahn announced that the federal government is limiting the amount of the antibody treatment that each state receives, but she seemed hopeful that plans can continue for a Treasure Valley center.
“On first glance, it appears that we have enough to continue the good work, including some expansion,” Hahn said. “... I think we do have enough and are not having to deny or reverse any of the progress that’s been made.”
BURLEY — The suicide prevention group Mini-Cassia PAuSe is refining a prototype suicide resource guide that will be given to police officers to hand out during suicide attempts or suicide calls.
The resource guide, published in conjunction with Intermountain Cassia Regional Hospital, will include a list of mental health hotline numbers, hospitals and clinics, counselors, mental health treatment centers, addiction and substance abuse resources along with other support services. Along with going into police cars, it will also be available at many public buildings and businesses in October — and it will be translated into Spanish.
The guide also has information on how to ask the right questions when someone is concerned that a family member or friend is suicidal and how to recognize the signs, have an open conversation and how to get help.
Combined through August 2021 in Cassia and Minidoka counties, there have been seven suicides, which equals the number for the entire year of 2019. In 2020 the number of suicides in the two counties was 11.
“What the numbers don’t track are the attempts or people who are transported to other hospitals and die there,” PAuSe Board Member Kyle Hodges said.
Having officers give out the resource manuals to families who are experiencing a crisis will be immensely valuable, Hodges said.
Minidoka County Sheriff Dave Pinther said they often do not receive calls regarding people who have completed the act.
“We usually don’t get that call,” he said. “The person who calls us is usually looking for preventative help.”
It will be useful for deputies to have the resource guides to give out to people and their families, he said.
Pinther said officers do not receive a lot training regarding suicide calls when they attend Peace Officer Standards and Training certification classes.
The sheriff’s office has responded to four to five attempted suicide calls during the past month.
“Thankfully, we didn’t lose any of them,” Pinther said.
Officers, he said, have to approach the situation from a safety standpoint, not only for the individual but for the officer. He coaches his deputies to calmly deescalate the situation when possible to avoid further trauma.
Pinther said he expects the suicide call volume to continue to rise in the next few months if many things begin to shut down again due to COVID-19.
In Cassia County from Jan. 1 through Tuesday, deputies responded to 103 calls for suicidal subjects but there were likely others that were reported as welfare checks, said DeAnn Taylor, Cassia County Sheriff’s Office dispatch supervisor said.
Through August across the state, 226 people died by suicide, which is down 20% from 2020, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare data.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Idaho consistently ranks in the top 10 states for suicides and reached number five in 2020.
Officials said in the second quarter of 2021 the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, received more calls and texts than any other previous quarter with 4,324 calls and 355 texts or chats.
After the statewide suicide prevention organization SPAN disbanded in 2018, Mini-Cassia volunteers formed the nonprofit PAuSe, which works with both school districts, hospitals and other organizations to provide education on suicide prevention. It also provides gun locks and medication safes to people in the community.
The members also deliver comfort baskets to families grieving the loss of someone due to suicide. The basket contains information on support services along with books for adults and children on grieving, a blanket or robe, Hershey Kisses and Kleenexes.
“A survivor of suicide helped us put the baskets together,” Hodges said.
The group also brings suicide awareness and prevention speakers to the community to talk with students, teachers and the public. and it sets up booths at community events to distribute materials. Next year it will pay for two Mini-Cassia emergency services workers to go to a Denver, Colorado EMS suicide prevention conference.
PAuSe’s next community event is set at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 with speaker Gabe Salazar, who offers advice on finding resiliency, hope and direction in a hopeless situation. The event will be held at the King Fine Arts Center, 2100 Parke Ave.
“One of our biggest accomplishments has been working with groups including the school districts on both sides of the river,” Hodges said.
Too often, PAuSe Board President Dixie Tate-Dennis said, Mini-Cassia efforts are hampered by the division of the counties by the Snake River and it is important for groups to not duplicate services.
“Families on both sides of the river are impacted by suicide,” Tate-Dennis said.
“It’s not a county issue,” Hodges said, “Suicide is a community issue.”
All of the nonprofit organization’s funding comes from donations and grants and it always needs financial support and volunteers. To help call Tate-Dennis at 208-431-9910.
Lexanna has been enrolled in multiple dual credit classes throughout her high school career with most of her classes being held at the College of Southern Idaho this semester. She got the opportunity and the privilege to certify in Adobe Illustrator her freshman year, and hopes to certify in Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator again this year.
Lexanna is involved in our local soup kitchen. She volunteers at least once a week preparing and serving meals to those in need and has done so since she was in 6th grade. She has put in over 100 hours of community service at the soup kitchen since her freshman year too.
However, her community involvement does not stop there as she has volunteered with Twin Falls High School’s Business Professionals of America (BPA) chapter to do various activities. Last year, she also participated in a walkathon with the special needs kids at our school to help raise money for the special olympics. BPA also helps with Wings and Things, a local fundraiser where profits go to helping kids in the Magic Valley. Although it was canceled last year, Lexanna volunteered the year before and has plans on doing so again this year by preparing treats to serve at the event.
As a member of Business Professionals of America (BPA), Lexanna has competed in Payroll Accounting at the regional, state, and national level. Freshman year, She placed 1st at regionals and placed in the top ten at state. Sophomore year, I placed 3rd at regionals and 2nd at state. Last year, I placed 1st at regionals, 2nd at state where I then went on to compete at nationals to place 14th.
This year she is also the club’s treasurer and secretary, allowing her to be more involved in the club and getting to know the members better. Moreover, she is also involved in the School of Finance at Twin Falls High School where she has completed a job-shadow and internship through the opportunities that the program offers.
Lexanna has had perfect attendance throughout her entire schooling career—yes, Kindergarten through current grade – huge especially in lieu of COVID. She participated in DECA’s virtual business simulations where she placed second in the western region for two consecutive years in the hotel management simulation.
Lexanna values education by striving to learn the curriculum and mastering the key points of every concept to further her education while enjoying and exploring new classes and opportunities, helping her find her interests and strengths. Personally, she enjoys living a positive, healthy life while building strong trustworthy relationships with her family, friends, and mentors. She also enjoys helping others and enjoying the little things that life has to offer. Lexanna is truly a community servant who is eager to help in any way she can and always has a smile on her face.
Lexanna is a sweet, smart and giving young lady. She will do anything for her community. Not only is she a 4.0 GPA student, she is very involved in clubs, leadership positions, holds a part time job, and volunteers in anything she can. She has managed all of this with perfect attendance through her entire academic career.
Lexanna plans on attending the College of Southern Idaho or Boise State University and majoring in Accounting and Business Management.
BOISE — A proposed meeting Wednesday by far-right Idaho House members to form a quorum at the Statehouse and force the Legislature to reconvene to prohibit vaccine mandates is grandstanding and illegitimate and has no chance of succeeding, key lawmakers said.
Far-right lawmakers have said they will hold the meeting anyway to try to get enough members to show up so they can force the Legislature to reconvene. Many Idaho Republican lawmakers are angry with the vaccine mandate that President Joe Biden announced last week.
Republican Rep. Judy Boyle, one of the House’s more conservative lawmakers, said she would support a state law banning vaccine mandates but will not attend Wednesday’s gathering after she had a recent discussion with other lawmakers, whom she declined to name.
“They made it very clear it’s about grandstanding instead of getting something done,” she said on Monday while attending a protest of Biden’s visit to the National Interagency Fire Center. “And I want to get something done.”
She also said far-right lawmakers would need support from more moderate Republicans, which collapsed during the discussion.
“A couple of my colleagues blew that up the other night, and the moderates all fled,” she said, adding that the conservatives “messed it up.”
Biden, who visited to discuss wildfire issues with Republican Gov. Brad Little, last Thursday announced sweeping new vaccine mandates affecting 100 million Americans.
The vaccine requirement states that employers with more than 100 workers must require them to be vaccinated or test them for the virus weekly.
Workers at health facilities who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid will also have to be fully vaccinated, as well as employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government.
Little can call a special session to bring lawmakers to the Statehouse. Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke and Republican Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Winder also said they can reconvene the Legislature because the House never formally adjourned earlier this year.
While none are currently inclined to bring lawmakers back to Boise, the three in a joint statement Tuesday afternoon said they are working with the attorney general’s office and governor’s legal counsel to take “legal action to stop President Biden’s unprecedented government overreach into the private sector with his new COVID-19 plan.”
Bedke said Monday he wouldn’t reconvene the House unless there’s wide support for specific legislation.
“No, not at this time,” he said in a text message asking him whether he would call lawmakers back to the Statehouse.
The Idaho Senate Majority Caucus, comprised of the chamber’s Republican leaders, in a statement on Monday said the attempt by some House members to force the House to reconvene is not allowed under a House resolution “and is therefore unofficial and illegitimate.”
Specifically, the House passed a resolution earlier this year to end the Legislature’s regular session by recessing instead of officially adjourning. According to the resolution, only Bedke can reconvene the House.
On Tuesday after Biden’s visit to Idaho, Bedke said he needed to take action. He instructed members of the Committee on Federalism to find a way to defend Idaho “against this administration’s unrelenting acts of federal overreach” at the committee’s Sept. 28 meeting. The committee typically takes up issues involving state sovereignty.
Republican Rep. Heather Scott in her legislative newsletter on Saturday, said Wednesday’s meeting “will be an attempt to attain a 35-member quorum of committed legislators to pass a bill to protect individuals from medical tyranny.”
Republican Rep. Mike Kingsley said Monday, while attending the Biden protest near the fire center, that he would attend the gathering. He wasn’t sure how many other lawmakers would be there.
“I’m getting calls and calls and emails from people who are losing their jobs due to the mandates,” he said, undeterred by potential obstacles to reconvening the House. “We don’t know until we see.”
Calling back the Legislature would cost thousands of dollars a day. It would also occur as Idaho hospitals face a surge of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.
Lawmakers had to recess during the regular legislative session earlier this year after a COVID-19 outbreak among lawmakers, mainly Republicans who tend not to wear masks.
COVID-19 cases are spiking in the state due to the delta variant and poor vaccination rates, overwhelming the state’s healthcare system.
BURLEY — After hearing additional testimony and attorney arguments on the Jimmy Lee Murphy murder case on Tuesday, a Cassia County judge took the case under advisement and said he would issue a written ruling on whether to send it to district court.
Cassia County Magistrate Judge Blaine Cannon said he wanted to re-listen to some of the testimony from the hearing, which was postponed from last Thursday, before making a decision.
He said he did not know how long it would take him to complete his findings of fact and prepare the written document.
Murphy is charged with first degree murder in the shotgun shooting death of his wife, Whitney Murphy, 26, in 2014 and with attempted murder in the shooting of his neighbor Levi Bodily, who was shot from a basement window.
Cassia County Prosecutor McCord Larsen filed a motion prior to the hearing asking for additional testimony from Jason Rogers, the lead investigator on the case, which Cannon allowed.
Under oath, Rogers said a list of 13 people were investigated who knew the layout of the Bodily home and police were able to substantiate where 12 of them were during the shootings.
During closing arguments Larsen said out of the 13 people on the list only Murphy could not prove where he was and that the shootings of Whitney and Bodily along with a Yale Road farm building that was ransacked were all tied together.
Larsen said the position of Whitney’s body, which was still holding a grocery bag with her her purse nearby shows that she recognized her husband as the shooter and that Murphy had staged the home to look like a robbery.
Larsen said text messages between the couple also showed he used “a distinct method to bring her home.”
Public Defender Timothy Schneider said the state failed to prove that Murphy committed the crimes and that he provided consistent testimony to law enforcement on what he did that day, which included being home alone most of the day, working on a tractor and a water pivot and washing his pickup truck before returning home to find his wife dead.
Schneider said there is no actual evidence to back up the state’s case, and it is just speculation. He asked the court to dismiss the case.