COVID-19 surge, not vaccine mandates, causing Idaho's hospital crisis, officials say

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Staffing shortages affecting Idaho hospitals have been exacerbated during the pandemic, but experts contend requirements mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers are not the root cause of the situation, the Post Register reported Sept. 23.

The experts, instead, point to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and other factors.

"The staff shortage is not a result of vaccine requirements at some hospitals," Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said in a Sept. 14 news conference, according to the Post Register. "... The staffing shortage in Idaho has been long-standing. What has changed is a massive increase in COVID-19 patients needing hospital care."

Toni Lawson, vice president of government relations for the Idaho Hospital Association, made similar comments in the newspaper report, citing high COVID-19 hospitalizations, high regular hospitalizations and frequent staffing challenges.

"I don't know that you can point to just one of those things as causing the problem, but the big factor that is making it most difficult for hospitals to operate in a normal fashion are the high COVID rates," she said, according to the Post Register.

New daily COVID-19 hospitalization rates have increased 30 percent in Idaho over the last two weeks, according to data tracked by The New York TimesAdditionally, on Sept. 16, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare activated crisis standards of care for all hospitals and health systems statewide. 

At the same time, only three of the 50 healthcare organizations that are Idaho Hospital Association members have mandated vaccines, association spokesperson Darryl-lynn Oakes told the Post Register

Two Boise-based health systems — St. Luke's and Saint Alphonsus — also paused their vaccine requirements amid the state's crisis situation, the newspaper reported.

Read the full report here.

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