The South Central Public Health District on Thursday raised Blaine County’s COVID-19 risk level from “high” to “critical” based on rising test positivity rates and the number of cases in the two-week period from Dec. 26 to Jan. 8.
In its biweekly risk assessments for the eight counties it serves, the Health District reported that Blaine County’s positivity rate for the two weeks was 35.5% and its moving average of new daily cases per 10,000 residents was 22.3, both high. in the “critical” range. Based on Blaine County’s estimated population of approximately 23,000, the Health District recorded an average of about 52 cases per day over the two-week period.
“Cases and positivity rate continue to rise,” the district stated on its online informational dashboard. “The impact on the local hospital is minimal, but the impact on the regional hospital is critical due to staffing and space shortages.”
In a continuing trend of more young people becoming infected with COVID-19, the 18-29 age group had the most new cases over the two-week period, with about 200 new cases. The district reported new cases in every age group, including more than 100 among people aged 30-39 and about 50 cases among children aged 0-10.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare recorded 721 new COVID-19 cases in Blaine County over the two-week period. That figure is just over 3% of the county’s population.
The Public Health District said it is investigating cases in Blaine County schools and a long-term care facility. Due to the record number of cases — which have been determined to be fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 — both the investigation into the case and testing capacity have been compromised, the district said.
The district monitored 747 confirmed and 178 probable COVID-19 cases in Blaine County on Thursday. On December 23, the district tracked 85 confirmed and 17 probable cases in Blaine County.
Late Thursday, the Blaine County School District reported that 145 students in the School District had “active” cases of COVID-19, as did 18 staff members. Another 255 students and 22 employees were quarantined because of close contact with people who tested positive. There are approximately 3,300 students in the School District.
On Thursday, two of seven patients at St. Luke’s Wood River Hospital were being treated for COVID-19, St. Luke’s reported. St. Luke’s data shows that the positivity rate for the COVID-19 tests in Blaine County was 35% on Wednesday and fell to 12% on Thursday.
In its COVID-19 risk assessment, the Health District determined neighboring Lincoln County was at “high” risk and Camas County was at “moderate” risk.
COVID-19 cases are also increasing statewide. Idaho’s seven-day moving average of new daily cases per 100,000 population was 67.3 Thursday, after falling to 16.8 on December 19. (The state uses the number of cases per 100,000, while the Health District uses 10,000.)
On Thursday, the Department of Health and Welfare had recorded 336,424 COVID-19 cases statewide and 4,263 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic. The department has recorded 4,258 COVID-19 cases in Blaine County since the start of the pandemic, contributing to 27 deaths.
Meanwhile, Health and Wellbeing has stated that the high number of recorded cases is likely significantly lower than the actual number. There is a backlog of nearly 18,000 positive tests in Idaho pending review and follow-up by regional public health districts, the department said Friday.
The ommicron variant has been detected in Blaine County. In the last two weeks of December, 88% of positive tests sequenced for variants in Idaho were omicron, according to Health and Welfare.