Despite spiraling case numbers, Boise State maintains regular operations

Despite an unprecedented campus coronavirus outbreak, it’s still business as usual at Boise State University.

And that extends to Friday night — and Boise State’s football home opener.

“We are still planning for a capacity crowd on Friday,” university spokesman Mike Sharp said in an email Wednesday. “Current parameters require facial coverings in crowded outdoor spaces, including football games, regardless of vaccination status.”

A week ago, President Marlene Tromp and other university administrators warned that the current spike in cases threatened in-person learning and campus activities.

“If campus infection rates continue to increase, we likely will face temporary, rolling closures, which may mean shifting face-to-face classes online or to hybrid mode, suspending or cutting back some campus-based services, delaying or canceling large gatherings, performances and athletic events, and temporarily returning to remote work,” they said in an email to the campus community.

Two days later, Boise State’s online coronavirus dashboard appeared to bear out the administrators’ concerns. The university reported 127 new cases for the seven-day period ending Thursday — the most cases reported in a single week during the entire pandemic. Two weeks into the fall semester, Boise State had logged 202 cases, up from 48 cases during the same time period a year ago.

Friday night’s game will be the first before a full crowd at Albertsons Stadium since 2019. But it comes amidst a statewide coronavirus surge, driven by the newer and more contagious delta variant of the virus, and in the wake of dire warnings about the stress on overburdened hospitals.

On Monday, state officials allowed overwhelmed North Idaho hospitals to implement crisis standards of care — a health care rationing protocol never seen in state history. Hospitals across the rest of Idaho are “dangerously close” to moving into crisis standards of care, Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said Tuesday.

While Health and Welfare officials did not directly reference outdoor spectator sports Tuesday, they also urged Idahoans to take precautions during the current coronavirus outbreak — including getting the vaccine, wearing masks in crowded outdoor settings and avoiding risky behavior that could result in a trip to an emergency room. “Just be a little more careful,” Jeppesen said.

Other campus thumbnails

Boise State’s reported cases far eclipse counts from Idaho’s other college and university campuses.

Here are the current numbers from across the state:

  • Idaho State University, 33 cases, from Aug. 25 through Aug. 31.
  • University of Idaho: 27 cases, from Aug. 28 through Friday.
  • College of Southern Idaho: 18 cases, from Aug. 27 through Thursday.
  • Lewis-Clark State College: 15 active cases, as of Tuesday.
  • North Idaho College: 10 cases self-reported since Sunday.
  • Brigham Young University-Idaho: Eight active cases, as of Monday.
  • College of Eastern Idaho: Three positive cases, from Aug. 28 through Friday.

No current numbers were available from the College of Western Idaho, The College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University.

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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