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COVID still surging

by BILL BULEY
Hagadone News Network | January 28, 2022 1:00 AM

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The Panhandle Health District’s positivity rate for COVID-19 rose to a record high, 39.7%, while the state’s positivity rate also reached new heights, 38.8%, according to data released Thursday by the Idaho Division of Public Health.

Bonner County's positivity rate now sits at 36.4% — its highest since the start of the global pandemic. Kootenai County saw its positivity rate for COVID-19 also rose to its highest yet, 40.7%. In Boundary County, the positivity rate is 29.5%; in Benewah County, the positivity rate is 31.9% and in Shoshone County, the positivity rate is 48.8% — the highest in the five northern counties and the county's highest yet.

It was just a little over four weeks ago when the health district's and state's positivity rates were slightly over 5%, which health officials have long said is the goal.

Kootenai Health reported it had 93 COVID-19 inpatients on Thursday, with 18 requiring critical care. It also had three pediatric COVID patients. It usually has none or one.

The state reported 3,777 new coronavirus cases Thursday, while PHD reported 231.

“Once again, the situation in our hospitals and health systems is dire — we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat patients,” said Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen.

The increase continues to be blamed on omicron, which is considered a more contagious but milder virus variant.

Officials also point to Idaho’s relatively low rate of those fully vaccinated, 53%, compared to a national average of 67%, as a reason for the surge in new cases.

Even Idaho’s 65-plus age group, with a fully vaccinated rate of 76%, is well below the national average of 88%.

Kootenai County’s hospitalization rate for those with COVID-19 is 6.8 percent, the highest in the PHD, while its death rate is 1.4%, the lowest, according to the PHD’s website.

The hospitalization rate in Bonner County sits at 2.6%, while its death rate is 2.1%, according to PHD data. In Boundary County, the hospitalization rate is 3.2% while its death rate is 2.8%.

In Shoshone County, the hospitalization rate is 6.5% while its death rate is 2.9%; and in Benewah County, hospitalization due to COVID-19 is 4.3% and the death rate is 1.7%

Hospital staffing shortages due to the impacts of COVID-19 infections and a nationwide shortage of blood are also "significantly impacting healthcare systems."

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare activated crisis standards of care on Monday for Southwest District Health, Central District Health and South Central District Health.

Jeppesen continued to call on residents to get vaccinated, boosted and wear high-quality masks.

“Even though a lower percentage of cases are ending up in the hospital, the record number of cases is still putting strain on our health care system,” he said.

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