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9/19/20 CEO Update: COVID-19

9/19/20 CEO Update: COVID-19

It is a busy time for St. John’s Health, as the Jackson Hole area continues to experience high visitation by travelers and part-time residents. Viewing the dashboard of Teton County COVID metrics, my assessment is that our community is collaborating exceptionally well to manage the ups and downs of the pandemic. We are not currently at risk of excessively straining the capacity of the local health care system. That being said, my current concerns are the well-being and retention of our staff, planning for another winter with COVID in our midst, and preparing to efficiently and effectively vaccinate the residents of Teton County against the threat of flu as well as COVID-19.

Hospitalizations: Our daily census over the past week has been zero to three hospitalized COVID patients, one of whom was sick enough to require transfer to a larger center, where specialized care for severe COVID is available. This was our first COVID patient transfer since spring. There is a better understanding today about how best to take care of hospitalized COVID patients, and we are benefitting from this evolution in clinical knowledge.

Influenza/COVID vaccines: It will be very important for your health, and for the health of the community, that Teton County residents get vaccinated against influenza this season. Beginning next week, you will have many good options for getting a flu shot, including at physician offices, through the Health Department, and at local pharmacies.

There are three reasons getting your flu shot is especially important this year. First, the symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 are very similar, and it is helpful to be able to tell your physician that you have been immunized against flu when they are evaluating you. Second, we need to minimize the incidence of a preventable illness, the flu, so that St. John’s will have adequate resources and capacity for COVID patients who require hospital care. Lastly, once the COVID vaccine becomes available, I believe it will be distributed first to communities that have established good vaccination programs and participation rates. Let’s be that community that continues to look after each other. At St. John’s, it is mandatory that all of our employees receive a flu shot in October so that we can continue to keep our hospital and clinics safe and healthy for your benefit. Thank you for doing your part.

COVID Testing: St. John’s is investing in additional testing equipment so that we can offer more rapid testing at locations throughout Teton County. I am so impressed with the herculean effort of the schools, the health department, and other entities to get our youth back to school this fall. While there will continue to be challenges related to providing the education and other opportunities our children need, I believe our ability to provide more tests and quicker results will help keep our children in school, which helps our local economy healthy by allowing working parents to go to work.

Paul Beaupré, MD, CEO
St. John’s Health