Health experts address growing COVID numbers in joint Teams meeting

Dr. Jordan Blanchard, Medical Clinic Director, Weiser Memorial Hospital, discusses the impact of the pandemic on Weiser and the surrounding community during a joint Teams meeting with other health care professionals across the state and beyond on Tuesday afternoon.


On Tuesday afternoon, health-care leaders from across the Treasure Valley and beyond met together for a joint virtual meeting using the conferencing software platform Microsoft Teams.

Opening the meeting was Dr. James Souza, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Health System. He said that in buildings, hospitals, like the one depicted on the screen behind him that “our citizens are suffering and dying in those buildings.”

Souza took time to address the news conference presented by Southwest District Health Department that took place earlier on Tuesday morning. He wanted to reemphasize to the community about the important work being done by health-care providers.

“These people are heroes, they make the world better every day,” said Souza.

He made note that Southwest District Health Department allowed speakers at their news conference that are presenting a “toxic minority narrative denigrating the work they [health-care workers] do.”

“Our facilities are jammed to the gills,” said Souza.

He said that the solutions are simple, including wearing a face covering.

“It’s time for the quiet majority to take back this conversation,” he said.

Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer with Saint Alphonsus Health System, said the metrics being used measure active cases per 100,000 people in counties. He said that Ada County has over 800 active cases, while Canyon County has over 900.

“Any number over 100 is severe COVID prevalence,” stated Nemerson.

He went on to say that demand for testing has doubled.

“We are expected to double hospitalized patients by Christmas,” said Nemerson.

As for possibility of vaccines, Nemerson said that there are two vaccines, one of which will may be available within “the next two months.” He said that people who fall within the high risk group category will be prioritized when a vaccine does become available.

Dr. Jordan Blanchard medical clinic director with Weiser Memorial Hospital said that while his facility has been able to do rapid testing procedures, the clinic is unable to order any more tests and they will be “out of supply today.”

Dr. William Vetter from Valor Health said that his facility has considered the possibility of stopping surgeries for the time being.

“Our staff is tired from this. The community kind of depends on us to always be open,” stated Vetter, who likened a community health care facility to that of a TV, “you expect it to turn on” when it’s expected to do so.

He also said that wearing a mask is the least worst option despite glasses fogging up when speaking.

Dr. David Peterman, CEO with Primary Health Medical Group, said that the organization’s testing sites are “booked out for days.”

“We’re up against a wall here,” said Peterman.

Dr. John Kaiser, vice president / chief medical officer with Saltzer Health, said that the demand for tests has gone up to approximately 1,500 per day, up from the average of 400 to 500 per day previously.

Kaiser said that the current COVID numbers are “more than double what we saw last year.” He went on to say that will this week’s numbers added in, the volumes will be “triple” what last year’s totals were.

Dr. Richard Augustus, chief medical officer with West Valley Medical Center, stated that West Valley has a total of six ventilators, five of which are in use.

“Not a lot that we can do,” said Augustus.

He also said that “patients are staying longer” and that they are “sicker” and cannot be transferred to another facility.

Augustus said that the situation is reaching “the point of capacity.” He then asked how can be get more nurses and doctors when all of them are already working extra shifts.

“These numbers are terrifying. It’s real. It’s not made up. We need to change our behavior,” stated Augustus.

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