BOISE, Idaho — With some state hospitals on the brink of having to ration care because of an influx of COVID-19 patients, as they observe crisis standards of care protocols, Idaho added 1,829 new cases on Tuesday and 13 deaths, according to data from the Department of Health and Welfare.
Hospital beds and intensive care units are filling with unvaccinated patients in a state where essentially half the eligible population continues to shun vaccines. On Friday, there were 686 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and 180 patients in an intensive care unit, according to Health and Welfare data. Last winter, the peak figures were 496 patients hospitalized and 122 in intensive care.
In response to the crisis, Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday allocated an additional $10 million in relief funding to Idaho hospitals and urgent care clinics, according to a news release.
The Republican governor has previously allocated funds to combat hospital staffing shortages and expand testing in K-12 schools. But Little has refused to implement mask mandates, limits on large gatherings, vaccination requirements or other health-safety measures.
Little is also trying to expand access to monoclonal antibody treatments, which have been shown to alleviate COVID-19 symptoms early on in the disease. But a shortage in the antibody supply will reduce Idaho’s allocation from the federal government, according to Dr. Christine Hahn, Idaho’s state epidemiologist.
“The manufacturers … started to ramp down production when it appeared that the pandemic was on the wane,” Hahn said Tuesday. “At least for a short period of time, we’re expecting a decrease in the amount that we will be receiving into Idaho.”
She said the treatments have been shown to be effective in many patients, but they are not a substitute for getting vaccinated.
“The antibodies, once they’re gone, they’re gone,” she said. “It doesn’t teach your body to make the antibodies, and you are just as vulnerable to COVID as you were before. Please do not use this as a substitute for vaccination.”
Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 51.1% of the state’s population 12 or older fully vaccinated, according to Health and Welfare. Nationally, the average is 64%.
Since the start of the pandemic, 11,800 health care workers have been infected, 10,718 people have been hospitalized in Idaho and 1,777 have been admitted to an intensive care unit. Idaho has reported 2,662 COVID-19-related deaths.