The numbers were small at first: three tests for COVID-19 were administered on March 12, one day before Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced the outbreak. Two came back positive.
Then the numbers started to rise.
On March 13, 12 COVID-19 tests were administered at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, and four of them were positive. By March 14, the testing number had nearly doubled to 22, and 12 were positive. Then, on March 24—the ultimate peak in Blaine County thus far—119 tests were administered and 44 of those came back positive for the novel coronavirus.
Thanks to a recent data dashboard created by St. Luke’s Health System’s IT department, Blaine County residents can now get a clearer picture of how the virus surged through their community, tracking, day by day, its spread. The dashboard, which went live this week, shows testing data by county as well as hospitalizations due to COVID-19 throughout the St. Luke’s Health System. It does not share any data from other testing facilities or health care systems in the state.
“Based on the inquires and feedback we have been receiving, we are happy to be able to provide data on St. Luke’s Health System’s testing and hospitalizations,” St. Luke’s Wood River Chief Operation Officer Carmen Jacobsen said in an email to the Mountain Express this week.
“It is important to keep in mind that it is specific to St. Luke’s. It is also why we collaborate on a regular basis with our community leaders and partners to share information.”
By Monday, March 23, Hailey, Ketchum and Bellevue had all taken swift action to declare emergencies, granting additional power to the respective city mayors and access to all applicable federal, state and county emergency resources. Also, on that Monday, Little signed a proclamation waiving 125 administrative rules dealing with health care providers and access, clearing the way for telehealth, among other things.
However, according to the data now available, Blaine County’s spike in cases began to diminish after March 24, with fewer and fewer positive cases returning, and a total of 68 days—not all consecutive—between March 24 and Aug. 10 on which zero new positive cases were reported, according to the dashboard.
St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center’s worst hospitalization day was April 8, when four COVID-19 patients were admitted. Again, between April and August, those numbers have dwindled, from four to one patient hospitalized due to COVID-19 this Tuesday, according to the dashboard.
But according to St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center Public Relations Manager Joy Prudek, it’s fair to assume that the majority of hospitalizations in Twin Falls county between March and April were Blaine County residents who were transported for additional specialized care for their COVID symptoms. Between April 1 and April 4, 39 COVID-19 patients were admitted into St. Luke’s Magic Valley hospital.
While testing numbers have risen since a lull in May and June, Blaine County’s numbers overall remain low compared to neighboring counties such as Twin Falls, which have seen a steady number of positive cases since the beginning of July. On Wednesday, the South Central Public Health District announced that Blaine County was in its “minimal risk” category based on its suite of COVID-19 metrics.
That said, no community is out of the woods yet.
In the last several days, at least two Ketchum businesses, Maude’s Coffee and Clothes and Rasberrys Catering & Bistro, have announced via their Facebook pages that they will be closed for several days because an employee or employees have either begun to show symptoms of the virus, or in quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
Prudek says health experts continue to advise extreme caution and urge people to wear a mask when in public, wash hands regularly and adhere to social distancing measures when in a group.