Idaho on Thursday announced that it is activating a system for rationing medical care statewide amid a surge in COVID-19 cases that is overwhelming hospitals.
The system, known as Crisis Standards of Care, allows hospitals to prioritize for care healthier people who are more likely to recover.
"Someone who is otherwise healthy and would recover more rapidly may get treated or have access to a ventilator before someone who is not likely to recover," the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said in a statement explaining the system.
The state said not every hospital would need to ration care and that some would be able to function as normal.
When hospitals are overwhelmed, care for people without COVID-19 is also hurt. Idaho said that is a reason for its decision to activate the new system.
“The situation is dire — we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident," said Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho health department.
"The best way to end crisis standards of care is for more people to get vaccinated," he noted, while also calling for people to wear masks indoors in public.
The move in Idaho shows the damage the surge in COVID-19 cases is having on the health care system, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates. The overwhelming majority of people in hospitals with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates of any state: 60 percent of adults have at least one shot, compared to 76 percent nationally, according to a New York Times tracker.
Hospitalizations are spiking in the state. More than 600 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, compared to 170 at the beginning of August, according to the tracker.
Idaho had previously activated Crisis Standards of Care for the northern part of the state, but on Thursday expanded it to the whole state as the situation worsens.