All of Idaho’s key coronavirus metrics continued to move in the wrong direction this week.
New case numbers peaked again, for the seventh consecutive week. Deaths hit another weekly peak. And on Tuesday — the same day Idaho reported single-day peaks in cases and deaths — 404 Idahoans were hospitalized with COVID-19. That too was a single-day peak.
On Friday afternoon, the state and its seven health districts reported 89,899 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases, a 12 percent increase from last week.
As case numbers and deaths continued to rise, the school opening debate continued on the local and state level.
A second large district, Caldwell, joined the Boise School District and shifted to online learning for the balance of 2020.
In a guest opinion issued Friday, several education leaders maintained that schools are not “super spreaders” of the virus. But they said Idaho’s case numbers are on a “perilous trajectory,” and urged Idahoans to wear face masks, wash their hands frequently and practice social distancing.
“The pandemic is not partisan,” they wrote. “Enabling our students to go to school, with all the developmental and extracurricular opportunities it has to offer, is not partisan either. It is a moral and economic imperative.”
The guest opinion was co-signed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield, Idaho Public Charter School Commission Chairman Alan Reed, Idaho Association of School Administrators Executive Director Andy Grover, and Idaho School Boards Association Executive Director Karen Echeverria. Notably absent from the list: the Idaho Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.
In other coronavirus headlines:
K-12 cases continue to rise. On Monday, the Department of Health and Welfare reported at least 485 new coronavirus cases in the K-12 system, a one-week increase of 49 percent. Many of the hotspots are West Ada and Boise high schools; Boise will shift all of its schools to online instruction after Thanksgiving break.
Colleges head into Thanksgiving break. Fall face-to-face learning wrapped up Friday at Boise State University, and the University of Idaho and Idaho State University will also shift online after the break. Meanwhile, Northwest Nazarene University returned to face-to-face instruction Wednesday, after a one-week stay-in-place directive.
Strains on the system. The coronavirus is placing other pressures on K-12 schools. More than 11,600 students didn’t show up for fall classes, according to State Department of Education data, leaving local staffers scrambling to track down these no-shows. Districts are also struggling to find enough substitute teachers, and some are bumping up their pay in order to attract subs.
Vaccines on the way? K-12 teachers could be among the first Idahoans to get a coronavirus vaccine — and conceivably, that could begin to happen by the end of 2020. There is cause for optimism, but logistical questions surround the vaccine rollout, and the situation in Idaho schools is likely to get worse before it gets better.
This week’s numbers (and comparisons with last week):
|Statewide data||Nov. 13||Nov. 20||Change, Nov. 7-13||Change, Nov. 14-20|
|Cases, confirmed and probable||80,104||89,899||9,210||9,795|
|Total cases, ages 0-4||1,245||1,356||132||111|
|Total cases, ages 5-12||2,739||3,125||357||386|
|Total cases, ages 13-17||4,580||5,208||602||628|
|Total cases, ages 18-29||21,783||24,143||2,285||2,360|
|Patients ever hospitalized||3,102||3,492||277||390|
|Patients ever admitted to ICU||602||673||28||71|
|Patients recovered, estimated||34,482||37,232||2,513||2,750|
|Health care workers infected||4,457||4,749||286||292|
|Positive test rate (based on all cases divided by testing numbers, as reported by the state)||18.9 percent||20.0 percent||+1.3 percentage points||+1.1 percentage points|
|Top five counties, by total cases||Nov. 13||Nov. 20||New cases, Nov. 14-20||New cases per day, per 100,000 population|
|Hotspot counties (weekly increase of 10 percent or higher)||Nov. 13||Nov. 20||New cases, Nov. 14-20||New cases per day, per 100,000 population|