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4/17/20 CEO Update: COVID-19

4/17/20 CEO Update: COVID-19

With the Teton County Health Department leading the charge to expand diagnostic testing, we are developing valuable information about the prevalence of coronavirus in our community. At St. John’s, we are tracking the incidence of COVID-19 illness severe enough to require medical treatment and hospitalization. These metrics and others will be extremely important as the community plans for an eventual easing of restrictions that have been put in place to keep our vulnerable populations safe and avoid overwhelming the local healthcare infrastructure. I am encouraged that we are planning ahead together. When the time comes to gradually resume community and business activity, I am confident we will do this as safely as possible.

  • What's new this week:
  • Community Wellness: As I reflect on our new name, St. John’s Health, I am reminded that wellness isn’t simply a matter of physical health. For many of our friends and loved ones, the current situation has created unparalleled suffering. We are wired to connect with other people actively, and we all need food, safe shelter, and a certain level of financial stability to be fully well. As I express gratitude for the sacrifices being made to protect patients and healthcare workers, I want to openly acknowledge that these sacrifices have carried costs that we will all bear for some time. We are deeply committed to our role in helping you, and our community, become well again in every sense of the word.
  • Active Disease Testing: Testing is key! I am one-hundred-percent in alignment with Jodie Pond and Dr. Travis Riddell from the Teton County Health Department that expanded active disease testing, contact tracing, and isolation are the key to controlling this disease in our community. It's important that anyone with symptoms, even mild ones, call our hotline at 307.739.4898, x 3. More testing is critical for our community to be able to begin opening safely.
  • Antibody testing: I am grateful for the panel of physicians and other local experts who are volunteering their expertise to help me determine how best to deploy antibody testing to our medical/first responder community and Teton County residents. A major concern with the current first generation of antibody testing platforms is that a positive test result could lead an individual to act as if they can’t contract or spread COVID-19, when in fact a majority of those with positive test results still can contract or spread the virus. The good news is that multiple new testing platforms are in late stages of development and about to be released that may help us avoid this. In the meantime, please do not be misled by unsubstantiated claims. We will help keep you informed about testing that is science-based.
  • Hospitalizations and Transfers: This week we saw a stabilization in the number of patients requiring hospitalization. This is a trend we are viewing with cautious optimism. I attribute it to the community’s efforts to be safe and comply with ordinances and recommendations and to the Health Department’s efforts to identify cases and exposures, and to isolate those affected. Due to relatively low incidence thus far of COVID-19 in eastern Idaho and Salt Lake City, larger hospitals in the region have continued to be available for our transfers.

    Of our 37 COVID-19-related hospitalizations to date, eleven were eventually confirmed as positive cases after laboratory testing. Twenty-six acutely ill hospitalized patients received negative test results. Whether we are caring for laboratory-confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients, St. John's must take all precautions to keep staff and patients safe. These precautions include designated isolation rooms and personal protective equipment, which is a scarce resource nationally.

  • Preparing for the Future: We have used the last month wisely, with staff and leadership tirelessly making preparations for what lies ahead. I am so proud of hospital staff and Foundation leaders for shoring up new supply sources, personal protection equipment, and other vital resources. Several of our support departments have helped us establish designated areas to treat COVID-19 patients without spreading illness to other patients and staff. Our nursing leadership quickly identified employees with skills and experience and has prepared and trained them for new critical care roles. Thanks to the Foundation, we have a new smart technology UV system that is helping us efficiently and thoroughly sterilize hospital masks so that they can be reused, as well as keeping our patient care areas and operating rooms clean and safe.

We are aware that the community has health needs that can’t be put on hold indefinitely. Likewise, St. John's must resume providing a full range of services to all our patients to remain solvent and continue to be here to serve our community. I have asked a team of hospital leaders to put together a plan for our eventual re-opening of services that are vital to community health. As this pandemic continues to evolve, we will continue to take the best care possible of all of our patients and work to preserve the long-term viability of the community-owned health system. Thank you for all of your support.

Paul Beaupre, MD, CEO

St. John’s Health

For more information on Coronavirus from St. John's Health, visit our dedicated COVID-19 webpage and subscribe below.


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Karen Connelly, Chief Communications Officer,, 307.739.7380