The snow starts to fall, the mountain opens and the holiday season is upon us, and unfortunately, so is the virus. As doctors prepared to take care of people who become sick or injured, we are concerned, more so than usual. We truly want everyone to have the best opportunity to enjoy our valley, to thrive in our valley and to celebrate the season. We also want you to be safe and to be situationally aware, whether you are skiing in the backcountry or at home with your family.

Many of our businesses and residents have taken steps to protect others from getting COVID. Thank you. Despite efforts, cases have been rising in our community, our region and the nation. We have public health orders in place, though they differ from town to town. We ask that everyone familiarize themselves with the orders and abide by the mindfulness in the mountains that Visit Sun Valley has developed.

We ask that you:

l Wear a mask whenever you are around people not in your household. People who aren’t exhibiting symptoms are often contagious and science has proven masks help prevent spread.

l Limit gatherings to those you live with, whether you are at a restaurant, on the mountain or in a private residence. A seemingly innocent family or friend get-together is resulting in people becoming ill. Everyone is well, but the next day, someone becomes sick and therefore, everyone at that gathering was potentially exposed.

l Wash your hands frequently.

l Watch your distance.

If you were exposed to someone who is waiting for a test result or has a known positive test, please quarantine yourself!  If you’ve been exposed to a positive person, you should quarantine for seven to 10 days with a negative test or 14 days without a negative test.

We ask these things because we are seeing increasing cases, hospitalizations and deaths in our region.

We are a small hospital, and our capacity has limitations based on staffing and other resources. We rely on the ability to transfer to other hospitals when we are full or when a patient needs specialized care. Every day or night when we begin our shift, it is with the increasing anxiety that we may not be able to provide the best care possible because of the constraints.

It is important that our residents and businesses understand the context of numbers on the St. Luke’s dashboard as well as the dashboards provided by South Central Public Health, the state, or any other source. It is important to remember that these numbers represent people, people you care about, people we care about. St. Luke’s Wood River may have 10 patients with one or two being positive for COVID, and for resource reasons, that be maximum capacity.

We hear the controversy; we hear the accusations that we are fear-mongering or overstating the concern. We assure you, we are not. It goes against everything we stand for and the reason we come to work every day. Our staff and providers are working extra shifts and longer shifts and have taken on more and more and more. We are doing everything we can think of to increase capacity, to avoid having to further scale back our operations and to prevent having to decide who receives care and who does not. That would have seemed unimaginable and unthinkable to even contemplate a few months ago, but now it is increasingly a concern. We are not the only state at this brink, making it even more dire.

Please choose simple actions that can control the spread of COVID. We want to assure you that St. Luke’s is doing everything it can to diligently prepare to care for our residents and visitors, no matter what.


The St. Luke’s Wood River emergency physicians are Drs. Terry Ahern, Brock Bemis, Malie Kopplin, Terry O’Connor, Deb Robertson, Brent Russell, Keith Sivertson and Jim Torres.

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