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COVID-19 going, but not gone

by BILL BULEY
Hagadone News Network | March 6, 2022 1:00 AM

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COEUR d’ALENE — The Panhandle Health District is “cautiously optimistic” that the worst of COVID-19 is behind it.

“The decline we’ve seen in positivity rates, case rates, and hospitalizations in our district has been wonderful and it is our hope that those trends continue,” said Katherine Hoyer, PHD spokeswoman.

Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for Idaho’s Division of Public Health, agreed in a recent media briefing.

She said hospitals are less stressed, cases are declining and there is hope it will stay that way.

“It definitely feels better,” Shaw-Tulloch said.

COVID-19 positivity rates fell in the state, PHD and Kootenai County for the fifth straight week to the lowest point in nearly three months.

The state’s fell to 6.2% based on 17,255 PCR tests for the week ending Feb. 26, while PHD’s reached 7.9% and Kootenai County’s hit 8.2%.

On Jan. 22, all three had positivity rates of around 40%. Health officials have said the goal is 5%.

Kootenai Health reported 29 COVID-19 inpatients on Thursday, with five in critical care. Both were the lowest patient counts in months.

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Idaho are also down.

From Feb. 1 to March 1, the state reported 330 statewide COVID-19 related deaths, a 40% decline from the 544 deaths reported from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1, 2021.

Statewide cases on Thursday, 1,442, were well down from a high of 4,337 on Jan. 19, a 60% decline.

The number of people getting vaccinated has trickled to a drop, too.

In the last five weeks, 861 Kootenai County residents have been added to the fully vaccinated list.

In comparison, from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1, 2021, 3,766 people were fully vaccinated in Kootenai County.

As a result, the state has a stockpile of vaccine doses. The Associated Press reported Idaho has 230,000 doses on hand but is averaging fewer than 2,000 doses administered a week.

Statewide hospitalizations were at 233 as of Feb. 28, per reports of 44 facilities, compared to 614 five weeks ago, a 38% drop.

The virus has taken a much bigger toll on older people. Of the 573 COVID-19 deaths in Kooenai County, 90% were people age 70 and over, while 1% were people under the age of 40.

Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist, said when it comes to COVID-19, the state was “hopefully coming around the bend.”

Still, she cautioned people that it was too early to relax, as some pockets of the state continued to have substantial case counts.

“We’re happy to see the direction, but it’s still too high,” she said.