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March 27, 2020

COVID-19 update from St. John’s Health CEO Paul Beaupre


St. John’s Health has begun hearing from the larger institutions in the region (Idaho Falls and Salt Lake City) that their capacity is being greatly affected. It’s clear to us that our ability to respond to our community’s needs will depend greatly on our own resources and capabilities. With continued support from the community, I feel confident that our preparedness efforts will serve us well as we confront this challenge together.

As of today, there are eight cases in Teton County. The Department of Health has determined that community spread is here. The good news is that our current positive cases are on the road to recovery.

From the start, we set up a hotline and asked people to stay home rather than going to their doctor. The cooperation from the community was wonderful. This has helped flatten the curve in Teton County. Additionally, we set up telehealth visits for those who needed to have a remote visit with a healthcare provider based on our hot-line screening. To reduce spread of COVID, home health visits were scheduled in patient homes to swab patients when testing was indicated. This week, we set up a medical tent to serve as an additional site for physicians to send patients who qualify for testing, as per CDC criteria.

At St. John’s, we are also doing significant supply chain monitoring. PPE is being preserved so that it can be used in the areas of greatest need. We are receiving allocations of supplies from the national reserves as well as our usual suppliers. With leadership from local organizations and Keegan Pfeil, RN, the community has volunteered to create masks that can be used by St. John’s Health to help us preserve supplies necessary for COVID-related patients. Other gestures of goodwill have been significant and deeply appreciated.

With support from the St. John’s Health Foundation, we have been able to acquire additional equipment including ventilators and a new UV room disinfectant system.

We have taken special precautions to protect our vulnerable populations at the Living Center. Even before it was required by CDC, we closed the Living Center to visitors. So far, we have had no residents with any symptoms.

We are fortunate for a couple of reasons, including the expertise and commitment of our heroic staff. We have 84 nurses (in addition to our core ICU staff) that have previous experience in critical care units. We are preparing these members of our staff to help provide patient care, including operating ventilators. We have made plans to expand space for patients who may be positive for COVID.

We are also grateful and fortunate that we live in a community where social distancing is possible and people are willing and able to shelter in place. Our large U.S. cities are having a much harder time flattening the curve. If everyone continues to do their part, we can expect to weather this difficult time as successfully as possible.

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