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Idaho has enacted ‘crisis standards of care’ amid massive COVID-19 surge

Idaho called for a ‘crisis standards of care’ due to low vaccination rates and high COVID-19 case numbers

Registered nurse Ann Enderle checks on a COVID-19 patient at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.
Registered nurse Ann Enderle checks on a COVID-19 patient in the medical intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.
Kyle Green, Associated Press

Idaho has enacted its “crisis standards of care” as its ongoing COVID-19 surge has overwhelmed hospitals, warning that some patients won’t get the needed care to fight off the virus.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare enacted the move on Monday and official announced it on Tuesday.

“We have reached an unprecedented and unwanted point in the history of our state. We have taken so many steps to avoid getting here, but yet again we need to ask more Idahoans to choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. More Idahoans need to choose to receive the vaccine so we can minimize the spread of the disease and reduce the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, many of which involve younger Idahoans and are preventable with safe and effective vaccines,” Idaho Gov. Brad Little said in a statement.

The state warned “residents that they may not get the care they would normally expect if they need to be hospitalized,” according to The Associated Press.

The department told The Associated Press that the crisis standard was announced due to “a severe shortage of staffing and available beds in the northern area of the state caused by a massive increase in patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.”

This will allow hospitals to use resources — like intensive care unit rooms — to patients who are most likely to survive, according to the AP. Patients will still receive care, but they could be placed in “hospital classrooms or conference rooms rather than traditional hospital rooms or go without some lifesaving medical equipment,” per the AP.

The move comes as Idaho faces a massive COVID-19 surge right now. Last week, Idaho recorded record numbers of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients — all in one week, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S. Per CNBC, about 46% of residents ages 12 and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, about 51% have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“There is so much loss here, and so much of it is preventable. I’m not just talking about loss of life. Ultimately, it’s like loss of hope,” said Dr. Jim Souza, chief medical officer of St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center. “When the vaccines came out in December, those of us in health care were like, ‘... it’s like the cavalry coming over the hill.’ ... To see now what’s playing out? It’s all so needless.”