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Cost of Omicron Might Not Be Hospitalizations
Wednesday, January 12, 2022


The Sun Valley Visitor Center went remote after Starbucks moved to a Grab ‘n Go model for the safety of the community. Wood River Bridge cancelled all in-person games until early February.

Hailey City Council and Planning and Zoning meetings have gone virtual due to the sharp increase in COVID cases in the Wood River Valley. FitWorks is closed through Jan. 19. And some restaurants remain closed.

With so many Idahoans continuing to refuse COVID vaccination, the cost of the Omicron variant could be the disruption to our economy and other aspects of life, Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said Tuesday.

“It’s a decision the people make,” he added, noting that Idaho still lags behind the national average with just 52 percent of its eligible residents vaccinated against COVID.

A whopping 2,319 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the state on Tuesday, although health officials cautioned that there are likely many more since cases are backlogged.

Blaine County reported 45 new cases on Tuesday. The county has recorded 417 new cases in the past week for an average of 63 new cases a day, according to the state dashboard.

Jeppesen told reporters during a COVID briefing that the testing positivity in the state has doubled from 8.6 percent to 17.1 percent since Jan. 1. The testing positivity was 17.3 percent at its peak during the Delta wave.

And many health care providers across the state are reporting test positivities of more than 30 percent, meaning one in three of every people who get tested have COVID.

There are so many new cases reported every day that the state has a severe backlog in its reporting data, said Dr. Kathryn Turner. Its published seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people is 48.24, but it’s estimated that number was actually 135.51 cases per 100,000 people between Dec. 10 and Jan. 1.

Idaho ranks between 20th and 25th in the United States for its incidence rate, she added.

Eighty-eight percent of all current infections in Idaho are now caused by the Omicron variant. And, even if it were only half as likely to cause severe disease as the Delta variant, we could soon be back where we were last fall instituting Crisis Standards of Care in hospitals, said Turner.

Omicron is so contagious it will be difficult to avoid getting infected with it if you have to go to the store, work or school, said Dr. Christine Hahn, the state’s epidemiologist.

As of Saturday, the state lab had identified 250 cases of Omicron among the samples it has tested, and  none of those had been hospitalized so far, said Turner.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that vaccines offer 70 percent protection against hospitalization, which is very helpful, she added.

But, while not as many people are getting admitted to the hospitals with COVID during this latest surge, staffing at hospitals is at an all time low, thanks to burnout, stress, and hospital workers getting sick, she added.

Additionally, health officials are seeing influenza at a higher rate this year than last. It’s not too late to get flu shot since February and March is usually peak flu season in Idaho, Hahn said.

Dr. Christopher Ball said it’s difficult to project what’s going to happen with any variant, but Omicron will probably replace the Delta variant.

“I’d love to say it’s the last variant we’ll see. But as long as the pandemic continues out of control, conditions are right for it to continue to be present,” he added.  We could see a new variant come along that affects children more severely or causes different side effects, Hahn added.

Booster shots reduce the risk of getting infected, even with Omicron, said Jeppesen. People should also mask, physically distance and wash their hands often as the surge continues.


The City of Hailey has extended its public health order requiring masks in public places through Feb. 15 unless rescinded earlier. Every public place is directed to have signage in place noting the order.



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