As the school year approaches, Idaho’s coronavirus surge accelerates

Idaho’s latest coronavirus surge continued last week, with new case numbers soaring to a seven-month high.

As of Friday afternoon, the state and its seven health districts reported 204,260 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases — a one-week increase of 3,709 cases.

It was the biggest weekly increase since the state reported 4,293 cases for a seven-day period ending Jan. 22.

The spike in new cases corresponds with the emergence of the delta variant, and comes just as K-12 schools and colleges and universities prepare to open for fall classes. Last week, the Boise School District reinstated a mask mandate for fall, while state officials urged Idahoans to get vaccinated to protect young children from the virus.

To date, the state has confirmed only 83 delta cases, 13 in the past week. Health officials caution that this is a low-end estimate, based on limited lab capacity.

The case numbers aren’t the only troubling metric from the week:

Child cases are increasing, as the K-12 school year approaches. The state reported 437 cases involving 5- to 17-year-olds, close to 12 percent of the week’s cases. That’s still just a sliver of the total, but still represents an uptick. Throughout the pandemic, child cases have accounted for about 10 percent of the state’s overall caseload.

Test positivity rates continued to increase rapidly. For the week ending July 31, 10.7 percent of tests came back positive — the highest weekly rate since mid-January. Health officials consider a 5 percent positivity rate a key threshold; when the rate exceeds 5 percent, an outbreak is considered out of control.

Hospitalizations also climbed. As of Wednesday, 208 Idahoans were in hospitals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest hospitalization rate since late January. COVID-19 also accounted for 74 ICU admissions, also a seven-month high.

Vaccination numbers are increasing, but remain far below their peak from the spring. The state administered 18,366 vaccines for the week, an 18 percent increase. Overall, 46 percent of eligible Idahoans are fully vaccinated, but for 12- to 15-year-olds and 16- and 17-year-olds, the rate is 17 percent and 26 percent, respectively.



Kevin Richert

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 "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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