Idaho public health officials on Tuesday urged those on the fence about the COVID-19 vaccine to get their shots now, as the coronavirus caseload rises again and hospitals begin to see more ICU patients.
Dave Jeppesen, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare director, said the state’s COVID-19 numbers “have taken a turn for the worse” in the past few weeks.
“All of the key COVID-19 items we watch closely are now headed in the wrong direction,” Jeppesen said during a press conference Tuesday. That includes daily cases, hospitalizations, COVID-19 positivity rates, and cases among long-term care facilities.
The number of COVID-19 ICU patients has doubled since early this month, Jeppesen said. Testing positivity went from 2.8% four weeks ago to 4.3% the week ending July 11. And the seven-day moving average rose from fewer than 50 new cases per day on July 5 to more than 146 per day by last Friday.
On Tuesday, the Health and Welfare daily update showed 245 new cases, the most in a single day since late April. Counts reported on Mondays have been higher, but those take into account cases from the weekend, too. Ada County alone reported 72 new cases Tuesday.
The rise in cases coincides with an increased presence of the delta variant, state officials said, though it’s unclear exactly how much of the spike can be tied to the variant.
What remains clear, state officials said, is that COVID-19 vaccines have been effective against the virus and its variants, and that too many Idahoans are not fully vaccinated.
“This has really become a pandemic for those that are unvaccinated,” Jeppesen said.
Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist, said Idaho has been hampered by its lack of testing capabilities to determine how widespread the delta variant has become. But the results they’ve been able to get so far do show its increased presence here, she said.
The delta variant originated in India and has become widespread in the U.S. Evidence suggests that it could be more transmissible than other variants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it is fueling a big spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida, Arkansas and Missouri, among other places.
Of the 284 samples the state was able to test, 26 contained the delta variant, Hahn said. Numbers are rising, and public health officials expect the variant to continue to spread.
“We’ve been discouraged that some people have interpreted our low numbers as thinking we don’t really have that variant here, or not very much of it,” Hahn said Tuesday. “We’re hoping that Idahoans understand this as a warning that we do have delta here. We do have the numbers increasing.”