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We have different types of alarms in our life in order to be prepared and to remind us of things that are important. Some alarms we can hit snooze, or even ignore, most of the time we need to heed them. We have had alarms go off for seven months about COVID, we know there’s fatigue, but we cannot hit snooze.

Idaho and many of our communities are experiencing extreme spikes in COVID-19 illness and deaths. As of today, St. Luke’s Health System has defined their hospital capacity as “guarded” due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Adams, Idaho and Valley County, are all seeing an increase in documented infections in October. We are concerned that our case rate risks mirroring the extreme spikes in much of the rest of Idaho.

Our Twin Falls hospital is currently experiencing the brunt of the outbreak in our region. This is having a direct effect on the smaller rural hospitals surrounding Twin Falls, who need to transfer patients requiring a higher level of care to St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center.

You may be asking yourself, “what’s that got to with us, we’re fine?” Well it has everything to do with us, because we’re all in this together. When the larger medical centers in Idaho fill up with COVID-19 patients it means there are fewer beds available to accept patients from rural areas.

What’s happening in Twin Falls could easily happen in the Treasure Valley, which directly affects all of us.

Do not misunderstand, we have outstanding providers, nurses and clinical staff to care for you, but we do not have an intensive care unit in Valley County to care for those who need high acuity care. With the recent rise in cases, rural counties and small towns all over the country have seen a disproportionate rise in cases. Cumulative COVID19 mortality rates are higher in rural parts of some States compared to urban areas. We are dedicated to avoiding that fate here.

Cases throughout the state and country are rising and they are predicted to continue to rise, as colder weather sets in and we begin to spend more time indoors.

We had been holding our own and overall, our positive cases were previously relatively low. We are grateful to all the individuals and businesses who have been following the CDC guidelines from the beginning. Please resolve to do everything possible not to contract or spread the virus.

The fatigue from dealing with COVID-19 is real but we must not let up.

We have tools to fight COVID collectively. We need to remain diligent and deploy them more vigorously in areas of our communities where guidelines are not being followed. Please know those of us who are here to take care of you, are working diligently to provide the care that our community requires and to procure additional resources where needed. But we need your help. Help us help you!

Here’s what we are doing and ask you to do as well:

• Wear a mask in public, wash hands frequently and watch your distance. Remember that you wear a mask to protect others and they should extend the same courtesy to you. Masks need to be worn properly, covering both the mouth and nose and pulled snugly to the face. Fabric masks should consist of at least two layers of tightly woven fabric and laundered daily if re-used. Isolate yourself and get tested if you develop fever or respiratory illness.

• Get an influenza vaccine.

• Limit interactions with those outside your household. Tighten your social circle and limit indoor gatherings to less than 10. Better yet, limit indoor gatherings to those in your household.

• We all want to support our local restaurants and shops, so consider take-out versus indoor dining and buying local versus traveling to other areas to shop.

• Minimize travel and plan your shopping and errands to minimize interactions.

Take care:

• Of yourself by exercising, getting enough sleep, eating right and staying hydrated. Find ways to unplug and reduce stress.

• Of each other: Be kind and gracious. Thank each other for wearing a mask and smile, even when wearing a mask. It can affect your emotion and can be seen in your eyes. Check in with family, friends and neighbors.

Idaho is receiving national attention for the rise in cases and deaths from COVID-19. This is not the kind of attention we want. We all want to be known for all the things we love about this place, not for being a COVID hot spot!

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Dr. Greg Irvine, St. Luke’s McCall chief of staff on behalf of St. Luke’s McCall medical staff.

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