Portneuf Medical Center

Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello is one of 14 hospitals in the region asking people to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 amid a high number of hospitalizations.

Area hospitals are reporting the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations to date, and they are urging people to do their part in slowing the virus’ spread.

Fourteen hospitals in southern and eastern Idaho issued a joint statement on Thursday.

“Hospitals throughout the region are experiencing the highest number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 ever seen throughout the pandemic,” according to their statement. “This is placing a significant strain on hospital resources.”

The hospitals are asking the public to embrace the community-wide “flatten the curve” strategy, which they say is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed.

“We are asking our communities to practice the personal responsibility behaviors that science has indicated will reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as other infectious illnesses such as influenza,” according to the statement.

The hospitals say that includes wearing masks in public, avoiding large gatherings, washing hands frequently and staying 6 feet away from non-household members.

The statement comes amid an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the region and rumors that some people may be purposely trying to catch the virus.

On Monday, Brigham Young University-Idaho issued a warning stating that students who intentionally expose themselves or others to the virus could be suspended or permanently dismissed.

“BYU-Idaho is deeply troubled by accounts of individuals who have intentionally exposed themselves or others to COVID-19, with the hope of getting the disease and being paid for plasma that contains COVID-19 antibodies,” according to the statement. “The university condemns this behavior and is actively seeking evidence of any such conduct among our student body.”

Eastern Idaho Public Health currently ranks Madison County, where BYU-Idaho is located, at high risk for COVID-19. But that’s not the only area seeing increases.

Local public health departments reported 1,654 new cases throughout Eastern Idaho between Oct. 7 and 14. There were also eight deaths during that same timeframe and numbers continue to rise.

That’s why hospitals in the region are asking people to be more cautious in the months ahead.

“The choices our residents make have a direct impact on whether we have the human resources necessary to care for our community,” according to the hospitals’ statement.

The joint statement was issued by Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, Portneuf Medical Center, Madison Memorial Hospital, Idaho Falls Community Hospital, Mountain View Hospital, Steele Memorial Medical Center, Teton Valley Hospital, Lost Rivers Medical Center, Bear Lake Memorial Hospital, Caribou Memorial Hospital, Franklin County Medical Center, Nell J. Redfield Memorial Hospital, Power County Hospital District and Intermountain Cassia Regional Medical Center.

Gov. Brad Little issued a similar statement on Thursday. He says increased community spread leads to more hospitalizations and more health care workers getting sick. And that can impact Idahoans’ access to ordinary essential health care.

Little says they’ve been working from the beginning to prevent that kind of strain.

“Our personal actions work better to slow the spread of coronavirus than anything else. Our personal actions are free of cost and a minor sacrifice relative to the rewards,” Little said in the statement. “This is about personal responsibility — something Idaho is all about. Wear a mask. Watch your distance from others. Wash your hands. Do these things so our kids can stay in school, our loved ones stay safe, and our economy can continue to prosper.”