TWIN FALLS — The Magic Valley set a new high for COVID-19 cases for the third week in a row.
Dr. Joshua Kern, vice president of medical affairs for St. Luke’s Magic Valley medical facilities said at Monday’s Twin Falls City Council meeting that the situation is becoming progressively worse — and it was already bad two weeks ago.
“We’re moving into kind of dangerous territory as far as how much we’re seeing in our hospital and in our community,” Kern said.
The Magic Valley is seeing high infection rates not just in isolated pockets, but throughout much of the eight-county region. Twin Falls, Minidoka and Cassia counties are seeing the biggest numbers of new cases, Kern said.
Twin Falls, Minidoka, Cassia, Lincoln, Gooding and Jerome counties all set new seven-day highs for COVID-19 cases this week. Twin Falls County last week had almost half of the 797 COVID-19 cases in the region, but the increase in all six of those counties have seen dramatic spikes. Those 797 cases represent a massive 311% increase over the 194 cases the region had in the first week of September. During the worst part of the summer, the Magic Valley maxed out at 380 cases in a week.
St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center has had a 40% increase in patients in the past seven days. As of Tuesday, there were 36 people admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19 — there are 132 people admitted overall.
The hospital felt the strain back in mid-July when it had 22 patients, the previous high point until the ongoing October surge.
“At the hospital, we’re getting to the point where we’re actually having to call in some doctors from Boise to help take care of some of the patients,” Kern said, adding that nurses are working overtime.
Back in some parts of August, the Twin Falls hospital had just a few of COVID-19 admissions per day. But now, Kern said, the hospital is considering limiting elective surgeries once again in order to handle the influx of COVID-19 admissions. He added that flu hospitalizations have already begun, a bad sign this early in the year.
Idaho also set a new record for weekly COVID-19 cases with 4,165. The Magic Valley accounted for 19% of those cases — back in late August the Magic Valley only accounted for 8% of the state’s totals. COVID-19 has now killed 516 Idahoans and 72 people in the Magic Valley. Three Magic Valley residents died last week, one each from Twin Falls, Cassia and Gooding counties.
Outside of Blaine County — where cases have been relatively scarce since April — Magic Valley government officials haven’t imposed mask mandates or taken meaningful efforts to encourage individuals to wear masks.
Many Magic Valley elected officials aren’t following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines. Several aren’t practicing social distancing in public. Local government officials also, in many cases, continue to shake hands and not wear masks. Those same lax approaches are rampant in the general community.
“Face masks are not rocket science,” Twin Falls City Councilman Shawn Barigar said. He added that he’s not in favor of mask mandates but is “struggling with why folks are not taking this very simple step to help stop the spread of this illness.”
Kern noted that a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in Arizona showed that COVID-19 cases fell 75% after the institution of local mask mandates. He urged individuals to simply follow the simple recommendations that will slow the spread of the virus.
“The wheels aren’t coming off the bus, but they’re starting to wobble,” he said. “I really just implore the community to take this seriously.”
Confused about COVID? Real advice from real doctors
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