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Idaho Faces ‘Grim Fall’ As COVID Cases Surge
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Wednesday, August 18, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Idaho is headed for a “grim winter” or, “at least a grim fall” based on current COVID projections.

Projections show Idaho could see 2,500 people hospitalized with COVID every week and 30,000 new cases of COVID each week by mid-October, Dr. Kathryn Turner, deputy state epidemiologist, told reporters during a media briefing Tuesday afternoon

That’s roughly 4,282 new cases a day--well above the previous high of 2,298 new cases in a single day, which was recorded in December 2020.

And “it is not a worse-case scenario,” according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Public Health.

Hospitals are overwhelmed. Already, the state is seeing a significant increase in people in the hospital with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, Turner said. On Friday there were 326 Idahoans infected with the virus in Idaho hospitals—the most since January 2021.

And doctors are seeing 108 people in the ICU with COVID--as many as there were at the peak of the COVID pandemic last winter. The record is 122.

Sixty-five of those people were on ventilators this past week—and that’s more than needed ventilators last summer and winter, said Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist.

Idaho recorded 813 new cases of COVID on Monday—the most it had had since January 2021. It recorded six additional deaths that day. But wait--on Tuesday it recorded 904 new cases and another seven deaths, bringing the official death toll to 2,258.

And all this comes as school starts and fairs and other large events are being held across the state, said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, the state's public health administrator.

Turner blamed the surge in cases on the Delta variant, which is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant that surfaced last winter, and the state’s low vaccination rate. The state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation with 47 percent of its residents vaccinated.

Shaw-Tulloch said the vaccination rate has increased slightly, either due to teenagers getting their shots as they return to school or people deciding they need to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others against the Delta variant.

"That's the biggest tool we have in our box. It's a very effective tool," she added.

About 12,400 Idahoans received a first shot this past week, and 4,600 received their second. Of 708,000 Idahoans who are fully vaccinated, only about 1,900 or 0.2 percent have caught COVID.

Hahn said studies have shown that vaccinated people who do get infected with the Delta variant have large loads of virus in their nasal passages. But they tend to clear it a lot faster so they probably tend to transmit COVID less than unvaccinated people.

Hahn noted that the Centers for Disease Control has recommended a third dose for those who are immunocompromised. These are not booster doses but third doses for immunocompromised people who didn't respond as well to two doses as others, she said.

Patients who would like that dose can get it from their health care provider or pharmacies. They don’t need any proof they are immunocompromised. They can just say, 'I’m qualified for that,' " she said.

The White House is expected to announce a booster recommendation for those who received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, available eight months after they were fully vaccinated.

Shaw-Tulloch said the Department of Health and Welfare is following the CDC's recommendation that people wear face coverings in public settings.

 HOW ABOUT BLAINE COUNTY?

Blaine County has been seeing a surge in cases, recording 2,487 official cases since the pandemic began. But on Tuesday it recorded no new cases.

 

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