SWDH Meeting 11/17

A screen grab of a meeting held by Southwest District Health officials Nov. 17.

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CALDWELL — Southwest District Health officials heard conflicting information from various medical practitioners during their monthly board meeting Tuesday in Caldwell.

The guest presentations were given by:

  • Dr. Sky Blue, an infectious disease specialist at St. Luke’s
  • Dr. Michaela Schulte, an internist at St. Luke’s
  • Dr. Vicki Wooll, owner of Eagle Creek Family Medicine in Eagle and board member of Independent Doctors of Idaho
  • Michael Karlfeldt, Ph.D, a certified naturopath at The Karlfeldt Center in Meridian

While each individual recognized the legitimacy of COVID-19, both Wooll and Karlfeldt expressed different views when it came to mask wearing, treatments and the overall severity of the disease in comparison to Blue and Schulte. All were invited to speak by the board, which oversees Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Adams, Washington and Payette counties.

Wooll recommended diet changes in order to boost one’s immunity and gut health as a way to protect oneself against the coronavirus.

She also discussed the need for hydroxychloroquine — a medicine commonly used to combat malaria, lupus and arthritis — as a treatment method, although no evidence has shown the drug is effective against COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In addition, Wooll suggested people of color are being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus due to a Vitamin D deficiency — a similar claim was made by board member Viki Purdy, the Adams County commissioner, earlier this year. Again, no such evidence has shown this per the FDA.

Dr. Sam Summers, the board’s physician representative, asked Wooll whether any of the information she presented had been thoroughly peer reviewed and tested. Wooll was unable to provide that.

Like Wooll, Karlfeldt spent a portion of his presentation — which aimed to “cast doubt on the current threat of COVID” — discussing death statistics. Both Wooll and Karlfeldt said they believe many deaths are being incorrectly attributed to the coronavirus and not a patient’s underlying health issues or comorbidities.

“Medical motto is ‘First Do No Harm.’ Are we doing more harm by overreacting?” he asked.

Karlfeldt, who is not a licensed physician, also claimed there was no evidence showing that masks or face coverings are effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus — a sentiment echoed by Wooll. Both Blue and Schulte disagreed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports “(e)xperimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread of” COVID-19.

{div class=”css-1dbjc4n”}{div class=”css-1dbjc4n r-156q2ks”}Blue said wearing masks can help prevent transmission in an enclosed space, and in turn, allows businesses to remain open and help the economy. While at home, if a person is safe and around their normal household, a face covering isn’t necessary.{/div}{/div}

“I find myself with a increasing sense of desperation and helplessness in our crisis,” Blue said. “Our behavior is the only thing we have to change this trajectory. … God bless our health care workers who are wearing these day in and day out for hours and hours in a day for your health.”

In the district, there have been 16,119 COVID-19 cases and 166 related deaths reported as of Tuesday. Statewide, there were 85,125 cases and 798 deaths in total as of Tuesday, a day when Idaho reported a record 35 deaths and record daily case count of 1,781.

Schulte said 130 patients were being hospitalized for COVID-19 across St. Luke’s facilities on Tuesday morning. She added they expect these numbers to “increase substantially,” especially following Thanksgiving.

“First of all, it’s not simply the old and sick who develop severe illness or require hospitalization or — God forbid — are dying from COVID. We’ve had a mixture of almost all ages admitted to the hospital, including the ICU, with sadly any outcome,” Schulte said. “All we are asking for is to be recognized as the professionals that we are, to have our experiences and perspectives be heard and to be treated with the same respect we demonstrate to those who seek our care.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also updated its metrics for determining the district’s COVID-19 health alert levels. Minor changes were made to better reflect new information and protocol. No other action items were voted on by the members.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 15 in Caldwell.

Olivia Heersink is the Canyon County public safety reporter. You can reach her at oheersink@idahopress.com, or by calling 208-465-8178. Follow her on Twitter @heersinkolivia.

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