Based on several metrics, Idaho’s summer coronavirus outbreak showed some signs of slowing this week.
New cases were down slightly from a week ago.
Deaths decreased, again slightly. Hospital and ICU admissions decreased as well.
But there was another troubling metric: The percentage of positive coronavirus test results continues to climb.
As of Friday afternoon, the state and its seven health districts reported 24,013 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases, a 15 percent increase. Cases increased by 20 percent a week ago.
More than half of those new cases were reported in Ada and Canyon counties — but here as well, results are mixed. New case numbers continued to decrease in Ada County, while increasing slightly in Canyon County. This week, Canyon County’s new case numbers exceeded Ada County’s, despite the fact that Canyon County’s population is roughly half of Ada County’s population.
Recapping coronavirus headlines from the week:
Two big school decisions. When the Boise school year begins on Aug. 17, all students will work online; on Tuesday, trustees approved a virtual learning plan running through at least Sept. 8.
Also Tuesday, West Ada trustees postponed the start of the school year to Sept. 8. They also approved — then backtracked from — a plan that could allow some face-to-face learning during a period of substantial coronavirus transmission. The school district’s plans could run counter to the local health district, which recommends an online-only approach during substantial transmission.
“The expectation, the default, is we want kids in school.” During a Thursday news conference, Gov. Brad Little tried to allay fears about school reopening. He highlighted the state’s use of federal dollars to provide free coronavirus testing for teachers and personal protective equipment for schools. “The expectation is schools will not be closed for extended periods of time during the 2020-21 academic year,” Little said.
Still, some 100,000 Treasure Valley students will begin the school year online, at least part of the time. That alone accounts for nearly one third of Idaho’s K-12 students.
Special session on tap. Little on Wednesday said he will call legislators back to the Statehouse for a special session the week of Aug. 24.
It’s unclear what will be on the agenda, exactly, and the governor sets the parameters. One likely topic: legislation that would protect schools or other entities from lawsuits stemming from a coronavirus case or outbreak.
The mechanics of a pandemic special session also are unclear. The state is spending more than $1 million of federal money for technology that could allow lawmakers to work remotely.
Here’s the data for the week. (And comparisons with last week.)
|Statewide data||July 31||Aug. 7||Change, Aug. 1-7||Change, July 25-31|
|Cases, confirmed and probable||20,846||24,013||3,167||3,442|
|Health care workers infected||1,228||1,423||195||195|
|Positive test rate (approximate: some patients undergo multiple tests)||11.5 percent||11.9 percent||+0.4 percentage points||+0.8 percentage points|
|Cases in select counties||July 31||Aug. 7||New cases, Aug. 1-7||New cases, July 25-31|