Omicron fuels a coronavirus surge, and some Idaho schools are already seeing spikes

(UPDATED, 2:55 p.m., with numbers from Nampa schools.)

Idaho is moving rapidly into a new coronavirus surge — and it’s unclear exactly how big the wave is.

On Saturday, the state and its seven health districts reported 327,465 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases.

That translates to close to 882 new cases per day since Dec. 30, before the New Year’s holiday. For the Christmas timeframe, from Dec. 20 through Dec. 30, the state averaged 489 new cases per day.

But these numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“Data for the most recent two-week period are incomplete,” the state reported on its coronavirus website. “Due to the recent surge in cases, approximately 9,900 outstanding positive laboratory results are pending local public health district review and followup.”

Idaho’s case uptick mirrors a national coronavirus surge — driven by the new and more contagious omicron variant. The state still has identified only 201 cases of omicron, but the state’s sequencing of variants is incomplete. On Dec. 30, the state had identified just 15 omicron cases.

The statewide spike is also evident in some schools — such as the Blaine County and West Ada school districts, and the Boise State University.

Meanwhile, most statewide coronavirus metrics are headed in the wrong direction:

Positive test rate: Rising sharply.

For the week ending Jan. 1, New Year’s Day, 17.1% of tests came back positive. That’s the highest positive test rate since September, and the onset of the delta variant surge.

For the week ending Dec. 25, Christmas Day, 8.6% of coronavirus tests came back positive.

Any rate above 5% suggests a virus is out of control. The positive test rate has been above 5% for six months.

Hospitalizations: Rising.

On Wednesday, Idaho reported 272 COVID-19 hospitalizations, up 11% from the previous week.

Wednesday’s 77 ICU admissions represent a 4% increase.

Hospitalizations remain far below fall rates, when the delta variant surge pushed the state into crisis standards of care. But hospitalizations generally increase some time after case numbers increase.

Child cases: Picking up, as K-12 students return to the classroom.

Statewide, 690 school-age children contracted coronavirus from Dec. 30 through Saturday — about 77 cases daily.

From Dec. 20 through Dec. 30, this rate was about 44 cases per day.

Deaths: Since Dec. 30, 75 people have died from COVID-19, about eight deaths per day. That daily rate is down slightly from late December. But, as with hospitalizations, deaths tend to increase sometime after a spike in cases.

Vaccinations: The state passed a significant milestone last week. More than 1 million Idahoans — 1,000,822, to be exact — have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Here are the current vaccination rates, with weekly comparisons:

  • All Idahoans, ages 5 and up: 52.3%. (Last week, 52%.)
  • 5- to 11-year-olds: 11%. (Last week: 10%.)
  • 12- to 15-year-olds: 35%. (Last week: 34%.)
  • 16- and 17-year-olds: 41%. (Last week: 40%.)
  • 18- to 24-year-olds: 48% (Unchanged.)

Here are the latest booster shot rates:

  • All age groups: 40.1%. (Last week: 38.4%.)
  • 12- to 15-year-olds: Not available.
  • 16- and 17-year-olds: 12.0%. (Last week: 9.0%.)
  • 18- to 24-year-olds: 14.5%. (Last week: 12.6%.)

K-12 thumbnails

Several large school districts are not reporting current coronavirus case numbers — but two districts are reporting more that 100 active cases apiece. The details:

  • Blaine County: As the county wrestles with the state’s highest infection rate, the district is reporting 118 cases involving students and 36 involving staff.
  • Boise: No new data available. Classes resume Monday.
  • Bonneville: 66 active cases, 61 involving students.
  • Coeur d’Alene: 24 positive cases.
  • Idaho Falls: Four confirmed cases from Dec. 20 through Dec. 31. No recent data available.
  • Moscow: No new data available.
  • Nampa: 89 cases, including 64  involving students.
  • Pocatello-Chubbuck: 20 active cases, 15 involving students.
  • Twin Falls: No new data available.
  • West Ada: 149 active cases, 131 involving students.

Higher education thumbnails

Numbers are also spotty across the higher education system — but Boise State is already seeing a peak in cases. The rundown:

  • Boise State: As spring classes resume Monday, the university is reporting 179 active cases, its highest number for the school year. In all, 100 cases involve students living off campus, 18 involve resident students and 61 involve faculty and staff. Eight students are in campus isolation beds. The university’s testing positivity rate has soared to 17.9%, also a high for the school year.
  • Brigham Young-Idaho: 50 active cases Sunday, 43 involving students and seven involving staff. Classes resumed Wednesday.
  • College of Eastern Idaho: Nine cases last week, two involving students and seven involving staff. Classes resume Monday.
  • College of Idaho: 20 cases since the end of fall semester (84 for the year). Three students are in isolation on campus, nine students are in isolation off campus. Classes resume on Feb. 2.
  • College of Southern Idaho: Two new cases reported last week, one involving a student and one involving an employee. Classes resume Monday.
  • College of Western Idaho: No new data available. Classes resume Jan. 18.
  • Idaho State University: 17 active cases for the week ending Tuesday. Classes resume Monday.
  • Lewis-Clark State College: No active cases. Classes resume Jan. 18.
  • North Idaho College: No active cases reported. Classes resume Monday.
  • University of Idaho: No new data available. Classes resume Wednesday.


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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