2 Idaho hospitals say COVID-19 has them near ‘code black’

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POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — The chief medical officers of two Idaho hospitals recently warned state public health officials that their facilities are close to being overwhelmed by patients infected with the coronavirus.

Dr. Daniel Snell of the Portneuf Medical Center and Dr. Ken Newhouse of Bingham Memorial Hospital told the Southeastern Idaho Public Health Board of Directors that the current rate of hospitalizations from COVID-19 is unsustainable.

“We are on a razor’s edge where with exponential growth and with continued people doing things in the community we could have a sudden uptick that could happen very, very quickly,” Newhouse said. “We could go into overload mode pretty quickly here.”

There were 410 new confirmed cases as Monday in Idaho and four new confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health and Welfare.

Bingham’s daily hospitalizations have hovered around 25 patients for the last six weeks, which is about the maximum number of patients the staff can treat, Newhouse said.

Snell said his hospital was treating eight people daily in July and that the number has nearly doubled. The hospital could make accommodations for up to 50 patients but that would put the facility in a “code black situation where we shut everything else down,” Snell said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.