I wish I could deliver some uplifting news today, but unfortunately I must report that that this has been one of the most difficult weeks of the pandemic in Teton County to date. The only way out of this dire situation is for the entire community to make a commitment TODAY to reverse the dangerous trend that threatens to bring our first responder and community healthcare system to its knees.
We are now experiencing unprecedented levels of COVID in Teton County and surrounding areas.
- We have six COVID patients in the hospital, a record number, up from the previous daily count of 0-3.
- Despite severely restrictive visitation measures and the significant precautions we put in place months ago, COVID has found its way into our Living Center, our beloved residential community for aging adults who need nursing care. This has required a major operational and clinical response, including extensive regular testing and moving residents out of their familiar living spaces to create an isolation wing where we can monitor residents who may have been exposed.
- In addition to our three Living Center residents who are being isolated and treated for COVID in the acute care hospital unit, we currently have four SJH employees who are positive for COVID and 20 additional staff members who are quarantined and unable to work due to their primary exposure to a COVID-positive individual.
- The impact of COVID at Teton County Fire/EMS has affected their ability to respond as usual to some of the hospital’s patient transport needs.
- The hotline is getting numbers of daily calls we haven’t seen since the national parks and local businesses reopened early this summer.
- The number of daily new Teton County positive cases has hit a new record and now routinely breaks the double-digit barrier.
This trajectory is simply not sustainable. With this much COVID in the community, it becomes inevitable that some healthcare workers will be infected. When more essential workers become infected, it is inevitable that we will have additional healthcare workers who get exposed. Even if these exposed individuals are lucky and don’t become ill, they won’t be able to take care of our patients because they will be under quarantine.
We are now all-hands-on-deck to keep the hospital staffed. With our best effort, we can keep our heads above water today. What will happen if today’s COVID surge doubles next week?
We are fortunate that today there are regional hospitals that, despite their own capacity and staffing challenges, haven’t yet said they won’t take our transfers. What about tomorrow?
I implore you to:
- Say no to the invitation to socialize in a risky setting or in groups.
- Consider how your children, and especially your teens, can alter their activities and lower the risk they will become infected and spread the disease.
- Do not eat or drink around others (outside of household members) who are unmasked.
- Ask yourself whether you are truly maintaining a minimum of six feet distance from others.
- Get your flu vaccine for your own health and to minimize the chance you will need to seek medical care in the health system this winter.
I know you may be fatigued and this isn’t easy, and I truly am grateful for your willingness to help.
Paul Beaupré, MD, CEO
St. John’s Health