Idaho passed another milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, with case numbers eclipsing the 200,000 mark.
As of Friday afternoon, the state and its seven health districts reported 200,551 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases, as the contagious delta variant appeared to fuel a new surge in case numbers.
The 2,248 new cases represent the highest weekly increase since mid-March.
Meanwhile, the state reported 14 COVID-19 deaths this week, bringing the total to 2,197.
As the pandemic heads into another wave, health officials are urging a cautious approach to the new school year. The Centers for Disease Control is now recommending face coverings in schools, a sharp departure from its recommendations from earlier in the month. The Central Health District — covering Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties — adopted the CDC guidelines Friday.
Other key metrics:
Vaccinations ticked upward — somewhat. The state administered 15,573 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the past week, a 6 percent weekly increase. Nearly 46 percent of eligible Idahoans are fully vaccinated, but the vaccination rates remain far lower for eligible K-12 and college-age students. For instance, only 16 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated.
The percentage of positive COVID-19 test results continued to climb, another troubling sign. For the week ending July 24, 8 percent of tests came back positive — the highest rate since late January. Health officials watch this positivity rate closely; when this number climbs above 5 percent, it suggests an outbreak is out of control.
Confirmed delta variant cases continued to climb, but probably remain a low-end estimate. The state has reported 70 confirmed delta variant cases, up from 30 cases a week ago. However, the state has limited lab capacity to confirm delta variant cases. (In this week’s podcast, Kevin Richert talks to Audrey Dutton of the Idaho Capital Sun about the delta variant.)
Hospitalizations climbed, another troubling trend. As of Wednesday, the state reported 170 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 49 ICU admissions, up from 117 and 40 a week earlier.