Even on their death beds, some COVID-19 patients in Idaho still reject vaccination

Just a few months ago, there were only five COVID-19 patients, at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. As of Thursday, there were more than 45.

Nearly all of these patients are not vaccinated, a reflection of “the amount of misinformation that’s being absorbed, and taken as truth in our community because people are convinced that they don’t want to be vaccinated, and then they end up here,” Dr. Meghan McInerney, the intensive care unit’s medical director, told ABC News

Given the influx of patients, beds do not stay empty long.

“We are overwhelmed. We have so many patients with COVID, who are unvaccinated,” said McInerney. “On top of an already busy ICU, you add the volume of COVID patients that we’re seeing now and yes, it’s just added a different level of busy, a different level of crazy. … It’s a lot. It’s a lot.”

Hospitals across the state of Idaho are now facing their most significant surge yet, as COVID-19 patients flood into emergency departments.

Statewide, more than 600 patients are now hospitalized with the virus, the highest on record, and less than 13% of the state’s ICU beds remain available.

Earlier this week, in an effort to address the ongoing surge, state health officials in Idaho announced that they had activated a “crisis standards of care” for the state’s northern hospitals, which will allow hospitals to ration care given the increased demand and a “severe staffing shortage.”

The rapidly spreading delta variant has rendered the job of these front-line workers even more difficult, McInerney explained. Idaho currently has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S., with less than 40% of the state’s total population fully vaccinated; the national rate stands at 53.6%.

“It’s really hard to be a physician at the front lines, doing this every single day and living in a state where the vaccination rate is so low,” McInerney said.

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In fact, all of the patients who are critically ill from COVID-19 and currently under care in Saint Alphonsus Boise have not been vaccinated, ICU nurse Jessica Parrott told ABC News, while “the people who are not getting critically ill, are the people who have the vaccine,” she added.

The virus is also landing much younger people in the ICU, some of whom are in their early 20s. This particular wave of infections feels more “aggressive,” than those treated during the surge in 2020, said Dr. Carolyn McFarlane, a hospitalist at Saint Alphonsus Boise.

“The deaths within our system in the past 24 hours are a 30-year-old and another in their 50s. It feels preventable,” McFarlane said.