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With some Idaho hospitals on the brink of having to decide which patients receive care and which do not, state health officials are predicting that the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases will not peak until mid-November.
Idaho is currently averaging more than 1,200 cases a day — 8,400 cases a week — according to data from the Department of Health and Welfare. But that number is expected to rise to 3,000 a day by the middle of November, according to a news release from the Idaho State Board of Education.
“I see no indication as of today that we are heading downward,” said Dr. Kathryn Turner, deputy state epidemiologist, in the release. “We may be heading towards a plateau, which I’ll take over continual increases.”
Since last Friday, the state has recorded 140 new COVID-related deaths, for a total of 2,753 since the start of the pandemic. Over the same period, the state added 8,483 new cases. In all, there have been 10,925 hospitalizations, 1,825 intensive care patients and 11,850 health care workers infected.
On Friday alone, Idaho added 1,648 cases and 34 deaths. More than half of those new cases came from Ada (579) and Canyon (252) counties.
In previous surges, a rise in cases was usually followed by a rise in hospitalizations, which in turn was followed by more intensive care patients and deaths, according to Dr. Laura McGeorge, the medical director for primary care at St. Luke’s Health System.
Though the state’s test positivity rate fell by 1% the week that began Sept. 12, it was still at 16.4%, more than three times higher than the 5% threshold used by public health experts to demonstrate control over the spread of the virus. The World Health Organization recommends not reopening communities when rates are higher than 5%.
Idaho has now been allowing health care crisis standards of care for over a week, and doctors at St. Luke’s, the hospital system that requested the state make the move because of its influx of patients, said Thursday that the situation at its hospitals has only gotten worse.
“We’re running as hard as we can,” said Dr. Frank Johnson, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Boise, Elmore and McCall, at a press conference. “Our ICU capacity is at all-time highs.”
Johnson said having to deny life-saving care to patients due to a lack of resources was a “possibility” in the near future. Still, hospital leaders stress that residents in urgent need of medical care should seek help at a hospital, where they can be evaluated.
On Sept. 21, Idaho had 689 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, which is nearly 200 more than the number seen during last winter’s peak. The state also had 186 COVID-19 patients in intensive care — over 60 more patients than at the peak last winter.
The state’s vaccination rate has nearly stalled, at 41.2% of residents (total population) fully vaccinated — the third-lowest rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Idaho has 51.5% of the eligible population (12 and older) fully vaccinated, according to Health and Welfare, far below the national average of roughly 65%.
Amid the surge in cases, the West Ada School District has extended its mask mandate until Oct. 8, according to a post on its website. After beginning the year with a mask rule that allowed parents to opt out their children, the school changed its policy temporarily after more than 100 students and staff members tested positive and hundreds of others had to be put in quarantine.
Over the past 10 days, the district has seen 106 COVID-19 cases — 88 among students and 18 among staff — according to its COVID-19 data dashboard.
LONG-TERM CARE UPDATE
As of Friday, Health and Welfare reports that there are 6,071 active coronavirus cases among 139 facilities, which is 710 more than the 5,361 reported on Sept. 17. There are 200 facilities with resolved outbreaks.
To date, 845 people from 189 facilities in Idaho have died from COVID-19-related causes — 10 more than were reported last Friday. Long-term care deaths account for about 31% of the 2,753 deaths in the state.
The most recent data from Health and Welfare show that 51.5% of Idahoans age 65 and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Below is a list of Idaho cities along with with the number of facilities in each city that have active cases of the coronavirus among residents and/or staff. For an outbreak to be considered “resolved,” more than 28 days must pass (two incubation periods) without any additional cases associated with the facility.
American Falls (1), Bellevue (1), Blackfoot (2), Boise (26), Buhl (2), Burley (2), Caldwell (4), Chubbuck (2), Coeur d’Alene (10), Eagle (2), Emmett (3), Fruitland (1), Garden City (1), Grangeville (1), Hayden (1), Idaho Falls (7), Jerome (2), Kimberly (1), Kuna (2), Lewiston (9), Meridian (15), Middleton (1), Montpelier (2), Moscow (3), Nampa (7), Orofino (2), Payette (1), Pinehurst (1), Pocatello (10), Post Falls (2), Preston (1), Rexburg (1), Rupert (1), Salmon (1), Sandpoint (2), St. Maries (1), Star (1), Twin Falls (8), Winchester (1).
Visit coronavirus.idaho.gov for a complete list of long-term facilities with active cases this week.
Vaccine doses administered in Idaho: 1,580,299, according to Health and Welfare. Of those, 776,792 people have been fully vaccinated, which accounts for 51.5% of Idahoans age 12 and older.
Test positivity rate: Out of the 45,484 COVID-19 tests conducted for the week of Sept. 12 - Sept. 18, 16.4% came back positive.