Elke Shaw-Tulloch

Elke Shaw-Tulloch

Idaho officials on Tuesday announced bundles of aid in hopes of saving the health care system from a resource crisis.

Coupled with hundreds of additional personnel to boost staffing levels, the state has made available millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds to hospitals, primary care clinics and schools.

The aid, which became available immediately, comes at a pivotal moment in Idaho’s fight against COVID-19. Hospitals recently broke records for the number of COVID-19 patients in normal and intensive care unit beds, state data show. Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday said the state was “dangerously close” to declaring Crisis Standards of Care. That plan gives hospitals legal guidance and protection to ration scarce and potentially life-saving care focused on saving people with the best chance of survival.

Hospitals are eligible for $1,000 per licensed bed to address COVID-19 strains. The funding pool is $4 million, said Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch.

That money can be used to relieve staffing shortages, including through retention bonuses, hiring new staff at higher rates of pay, hiring temporary staff, paying overtime hours, paying travel expenses for traveling health care staff, and buying temporary physical space or establishing spaces to administer monoclonal antibodies, according to an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare news release. The money can also be used to recruit or retain staff, the agency said.

Free-standing primary and urgent care clinics are also eligible to receive grant funds from a pool of $1 million. Small clinics serving less than 2,500 patients each year are eligible for $100,000; medium clinics serving up to 10,000 patients annually are eligible for up to $250,000; and large clinics serving more than 10,000 patients annually are eligible for $400,000.

Schools can also apply to access the $30 million of funds that Little set aside weeks ago. Shaw-Tulloch announced the funds’ availability at a Tuesday news conference.

On Saturday, Idaho hospitals were treating 160 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units — the highest number since the pandemic began. That record has already been broken a half dozen times within the past month, state data shows.

Idaho hospitals were treating 500 patients with COVID-19 on Saturday — the highest number since the pandemic began.

Idaho’s seven-day case rate has risen 164 percent in the past month, according to the Post Register’s count of public health data. By the end of August, Idaho was reporting 879 new infections each day, on average, compared to 333 on Aug. 1.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.