The South Central Public Health District maintained Blaine County’s COVID-19 risk level at “critical” on Thursday, warning that the ongoing surge in cases is continuing to test the capacity of regional hospitals.

“The local and regional hospitals are highly impacted. The local hospital is taking in patients from around the region,” the Health District’s online informational dashboard states.

The “critical” level is the highest risk rating in the district’s assessment model.

Blaine County’s average rate of new cases continued to rise since the last risk assessment two weeks ago, the district reported. Like in the previous assessment, the district noted that there are more COVID-19 cases in Blaine County than what is reflected in average case rates reported by the state and health agencies.

“The local hospital is also reporting a larger number of visitors testing positive for COVID-19 who will not be reflected in the county case average.” the Health District stated.

The Health District continues to investigate a COVID-19 outbreak in the Blaine County jail and is investigating cases in Blaine County schools, but investigations continue to be slowed by the volume of cases, the district stated.

The Blaine County School District reported 24 active COVID-19 cases among students and two among staff on Thursday. An additional 89 students were in quarantine. That's up from nine cases among students a week prior, with 39 in quarantine. 

On Thursday, the district was monitoring 147 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Blaine County and 18 probable cases, nearly double the number of cases it was monitoring two weeks earlier and about four times the number four weeks earlier.

The district’s risk model takes into consideration the number of new cases, the rate of positive tests for the virus, hospital capacity and other factors. Its four risk categories are minimal, moderate, high and critical.

In the 14-day period, 99 new COVID cases were recorded in Blaine County, more than twice the number in the previous two-week period. Eighteen were recorded in the 30-39 age group and 15 in the 18-29 age bracket. Fourteen cases were reported in the 0-10 age group, 13 in the 40-49 group, 12 among people ages 60-69, and 11 in the 50-59 age group. An additional seven were recorded in the 70-plus age category, five in the 14-17 age group and four among adolescents ages 11-13.

The rate of positive tests for COVID-19 was up significantly at 7.34%, from 4.98% two weeks earlier. The 14-day rolling average of new cases per 10,000 residents was 3.07, up from 1.27 two weeks earlier.

The Health District determined that Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties also have “critical” COVID-19 risk levels. Camas County has a “high” risk level.

The risk assessment released Thursday used data from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9. It is conducted every two weeks for each of the eight counties the district serves. The assessments are intended to inform residents of COVID-19 risk and to guide public officials and agencies in their responses.

COVID-19 cases are also spiking in many other parts of the state. Idaho recorded 1,459 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the state Department of Health and Welfare reported.

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