Physician leaders hold joint virtual media forum

Dr. Joshua Kern, St. Luke's Vice President Medical Affairs, is seen here describing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Magic Valley area.


On Tuesday morning, physician leaders representing some of the largest health-care organizations in Idaho and eastern Oregon shared insights into the COVID-19 pandemic during a live video conference call. Each of the four presenters offered their insights into the data, showing an increase in rates of positivity.

Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer for Saint Alphonsus Health System, referenced data that has been posted to the health system’s website “for weeks.”

“You’ve seen the trends and data and I wanted to highlight them because of deep concern that we have that our community is now entering the third stage or surge of coronavirus,” stated Nemerson.

He went on to describe how the data presented show a “significant increase” in cases in Idaho. Nemerson then described the metrics used by Saint Alphonsus to describe the health safety levels within the community saying that they take the total number of “active cases” per 100,000 population in Idaho including for each county and region in the state.

“The number 50 is the magic number below which the spread of COVID is considered moderate, above which the spread is considered high,” stated Nemerson. “Right now Ada County has got a prevalence of approximately 302 cases per 100,000, Canyon County, 245, and other areas still over a 100 cases.”

He stated that there is a “significant uptick in the community” and that it is “deeply concerning that we’re moving into a surge.”

Nemerson concluded by saying that data has shown that wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distancing and discontinuing social events “is how we will get this under control.”

Dr. Joshua Kern, vice president of medical affairs for St. Luke’s, was the next speaker, informing viewers about the COVID situation in the southern Idaho and Wood River areas of Idaho.

“We’re becoming again one of the hot spots of COVID in Idaho,” stated Kern.

He went on to say that the data show that early on, the majority of the cases were centered in areas of higher urban density. Now, however, new data show that there is a high number of cases in all of the counties in the areas that are served by St. Luke’s.

Kern said numbers started to go down as the community started “masking and taking more precautions.” He said that he felt that people then started relaxing and “getting less controlled with activities in the community.”

Next to speak was Dr. Richard Augustus, chief medical officer from West Valley Medical Center. He said that most people are tired of hearing about COVID and all of the precautions. However, he said we need to accept that this year is going to be different for holidays and get-togethers.

“It’s analogous to a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not the time to give up, focus on the basics,” stated Augustus.

He also reminded viewers that trick-or-treating is a high risk event and suggested that alternatives be explored.

The final speaker, Dr. Kenny Bramwell, St. Luke’s Children’s medical director, wanted to draw attention to the misconception that children are not affected by COVID. He said that children can carry and are susceptible to COVID, and children have been hospitalized from it.

“These are difficult times, trying to figure out how to navigate through all of these changes and all of these surges,” said Bramwell.

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