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Crisis standards of care ‘imminent’ in other parts of Idaho after the Panhandle’s desperate decision

This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md., shows Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, orange, isolated from a patient.  (HOGP)

While crisis standards of care are still in place in North and central Idaho, other parts of the state could also soon be rationing care as a result of the unrelenting surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization in the state.

State officials said both the Treasure Valley and Magic Valley regions are very close to being at crisis levels.

“Without a course change, we’ll be entering crisis standards of care soon in those areas, which means scarce medical resource decisions will have to be made,” Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters Tuesday.

In Idaho, hospitals make a direct request to the state to declare crisis standards of care when their resources have been exhausted to the point of needing to treat patients outside of normal settings or scopes of practice – or even worse, making life-or-death decisions by rationing health care.

COVID hospitalizations in Idaho continue to increase, and there are more patients on ventilators and in ICUs statewide than ever before in the pandemic.

Many hospitals, including Kootenai Health, have requested staffing support as the surge grows. A federal contract agency is sending support to hospitals based on their specific requests, but state officials did not have details on how many staff have been dispatched and to where.

There are hundreds of staff at the state’s disposal, and Elke Shaw-Tulloch, public health administrator at the Department of Health and Welfare, said the state continues to receive requests for staffing .

When facilities don’t have enough staff, they can’t provide the necessary care to patients . The federal contractor, which has 145 clinical staff to dispatch to hospitals, is fulfilling requests, Shaw-Tulloch said.

Contract hospital workers are being dispatched on a first-come, first-served basis .

In Idaho, 91% of those hospitalized with the virus are not vaccinated.

The state does not have a mask mandate , and despite evidence that masking helps prevent transmission of COVID-19, the Coeur d’Alene School Board opted against a mandate on Monday.

When asked why the Department of Health and Welfare was not requiring masks at the state level, Jeppesen said the department is continuing to look at all options, but that those decisions are best made at the local level by mayors, health districts and school boards.

“The best tool we have is for people to get vaccinated, and if you’re going to be indoors, wear a mask, and if you’re outdoors (in a crowded setting), wear a mask,” Jeppesen said.

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District reported 361 new cases on Tuesday and no additional deaths.

There are 236 people hospitalized with the virus in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 198 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths.

There are 112 Panhandle residents hospitalized, and Kootenai Health is treating 97 patients currently.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.