BOISE — Gov. Brad Little announced in a press release that three COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment facilities will be set up across Idaho and $10 million in federal relief funds will be distributed to help ease the burden on overstretched hospitals.
The treatment facilities will be located in the Treasure Valley, north Idaho and eastern Idaho. The therapeutic medications, which are free but must come from a doctor’s referral, have proven to be effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization from COVID, the release said. The centers can help free up hospital bed capacity for those who are severely ill.
“There are too many unvaccinated people in our hospitals right now. We need to reduce the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations so everyone else can continue to access health care for strokes, heart attacks, car accidents, and other emergencies,” Little said in the release. “We need more Idahoans to choose to receive the vaccine. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way to minimize the spread of the disease to the vulnerable. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is also the most effective way to minimize your own risk of hospitalization from the disease.”
More than half of Idahoans remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. According to previous reporting from the Idaho Capital Sun, as of Aug. 16, 97% of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients at Kootenai Health in north Idaho were unvaccinated.
North Idaho will be the focus of these new efforts, the press release said, as vaccination rates in that area are among the lowest in the state and local hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients and preparing to implement crisis standards of care.
The $10 million in relief funds will come from American Rescue Plan Act dollars to create more physical space for patients, address staffing shortages and transitioning patients out of the hospital for bed space. The funding will also be available for skilled nursing facilities.
“The staffing shortage facing senior care facilities is so severe that many facilities cannot accept new patients who desperately need care,” Robert Vande Merwe, executive director of the Idaho Health Care Association, said in the release. “This relief will help facilities find the staff necessary to provide quality care to their current patients and will enable facilities to accept new patients, which helps hospitals address the surge they are currently facing.”
“All of our hospitals, large and small, are asking more and more of our staff as our COVID hospitalizations continue to increase,” Dr. Rachel Gonzales, CEO of Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg and chairwoman of the Idaho Hospital Association Board of Directors, said in the release. “This additional funding will help us recognize them for their heroic efforts and fill in some of the gaps where we are stretched so thin.”