Idaho COVID-19 surge: Over 500 cases Friday, 2,000 for week. Positivity rate soars.

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For the fourth week straight, COVID-19 cases have surged in Idaho, pushing daily case numbers to levels not seen since March.

The state added 2,259 cases this week of July 26 — including more than 500 on Friday — surpassing 200,000 cases since the start of the pandemic and pushing the seven-day moving average of new cases to roughly 323, an average not exceeded since March 15. As recently as July 5, the seven-day average was under 50.

As of July 28, there were 170 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and 49 in an ICU, according to the Department of Health and Welfare. In a trend seen across the country, doctors and public health officials say that the state is in a pandemic of the unvaccinated: Nearly every patient with a severe case of COVID-19 has not received a vaccine.

The state also added 14 deaths this week, pushing that total to 2,197.

In another indication that COVID-19 cases are climbing in a worrisome manner, the percentage of tests taken that came back positive rose to 8% for the week of July 18-24, which well exceeds the 5% benchmark used by health experts to gauge whether spread is under control. The last time the positivity rate was at 8% was the week of Jan. 17-23.

State health officials have linked this month’s rapid rise to the delta variant, a highly contagious strain of the virus that was first identified in India and has prompted an about-face by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its masking guidelines, even for vaccinated Americans.

On Tuesday, the CDC reversed the more relaxed recommendations that went into place in May, which said that vaccinated Americans need not worry about wearing masks in most public indoor settings. Now the CDC is advising face coverings in areas with “substantial or high” spread of COVID-19, which includes most counties in Idaho.

(The CDC publishes a seven-day case rate per 100,000 residents in each county in the U.S., which it uses to determine how widespread transmission is in a community. Health and Welfare publishes similar figures for Idaho, except that its county rate is a seven-day “moving” average, meaning that it relies on a daily number rather than a seven-day figure, so its county rate is considerably lower than the CDC’s.)

In response to the new mask guidance, the city of Boise reinstated its mandate at city facilities on Tuesday, and some local businesses are considering doing the same now.

The new masking guidance comes as the CDC has amassed data on the way the delta variant spreads. One recent study found that infected persons may carry 1,000 times more virus than a person infected with the original coronavirus strain. New evidence compiled by the CDC and referred to in an internal presentation, which was first reported on by The Washington Post on Thursday, suggests that vaccinated people still carry large viral loads and can readily spread the disease to others, if they get a so-called breakthrough infection.

Still, the CDC’s findings also show that vaccination prevents the vast majority of infected people from severe disease complications or from getting very sick. But the variant’s increased infectiousness prompted the CDC report on masking.

“Given higher transmissibility and current vaccine coverage, universal masking is essential to reduce transmission of the Delta variant,” the document reads.

As of Friday, 11,185 health care workers in Idaho have been infected with COVID-19, 9,091 people have been hospitalized with the disease and 1,524 have been admitted to an ICU. The state estimates there have been 116,679 recoveries.

Long-term care update

As of Friday, Health and Welfare reported that there are 1,475 active COVID-19 cases associated with 28 long-term care facilities, which is higher than last week’s 1,285 cases. There are 292 facilities with resolved outbreaks.

To date, 806 people from 180 facilities in Idaho have died from COVID-related causes — one more than was reported last week. Long-term care residents account for about 37% of COVID-related deaths.

Ammon: Promonotory Point Rehabilitation; Boise: State Veterans Home-Boise, Aspen Valley Senior Living, Park Place Assisted Living, Edgewood Spring Creek-Overland, Cottages of Boise; Bellevue: Cove of Cascadia; Caldwell: Lenity Senior Living; Chubbuck: Brookdale Chubbuck; Coeur d’Alene: Ivy Court, Lodge at Fairway Forest, Coeur d’Alene Health and Rehab of Cascadia; Lewiston: Advanced Health Care of Lewiston; Meridian: Grace Assisted Living-Fairview Lakes, Edgewood Spring Creek Meridian, Harmony Hills;

Montpelier: Bear Lake Manor, Bear Lake Memorial Skilled Nursing; Nampa: Grace Assisted Living-Nampa, Meadow View Nursing & Rehab; Pocatello: Gateway Transitional Care Center, Brookdale Pocatello, Monte Vista Hills, State Veterans Home-Pocatello; Rupert: Countryside Care and Rehab; Silverton: Good Samaritan Society-Silver Wood Village; Twin Falls: Twin Falls Transitional Care of Cascadia, Serenity Transitional Care.

Weekly snapshot

Vaccine doses administered in Idaho: 1,387,985, according to Health and Welfare. Of those, 691,789 people have been fully vaccinated, which accounts for 45.8% of Idahoans age 12 and older.

Test positivity rate: Out of the 15,036 COVID-19 tests conducted for the week of July 18-24, 8.0% came back positive.

Counties with highest current seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 population, per Health and Welfare: Lewis 37.2, Shoshone 35.5, Adams 33.3, Twin Falls 30.4, Nez Perce 29.3.

Visit our “what we know” file for a daily look at new cases by county and other key numbers.

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