With COVID-19 cases starting to trend downward in Idaho, Blaine County continues to face elevated numbers of cases and risk for the virus.
The county remained at the overall “critical” risk level for COVID-19 in a new assessment released Thursday, with the rates of new cases and positive tests staying high.
Based on its own risk-assessment model using data from Jan. 24-30, the county’s number of new daily cases per hypothetical 100,000 residents decreased to 61.4 from 82.5 the previous week, based on a seven-day average. A rate above 25 per 100,000 is considered “critical.” The rate of COVID-19 tests registering as positive decreased to 12.52% from 13.08% the previous week. A positivity rate above 10% is also considered “critical.”
The county has four risk levels in its model: minimal, moderate, high and critical.
The 18-29 age group recorded the highest number of new cases, with 27 in the seven-day span. The next highest age group was 50-59, with 19 new cases in the county.
Statewide, case numbers are trending downward from highly elevated figures in early December and through the holiday season. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare by Thursday had recorded 164,163 cases of COVID-19 in Idaho since the pandemic began last winter, including 507 new cases on Wednesday. On Dec. 9, the state recorded 2,298 new cases. The state has recorded 1,748 COVID-related deaths.
Blaine County has recorded 2,003 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, with 14 deaths attributed to the virus. Fourteen new confirmed cases and one probable case in the county were recorded Wednesday.
Meanwhile, efforts to vaccinate Idahoans continue, amid a shortage of vaccine doses. Statewide, 139,695 doses of COVID vaccines had been administered to 113,550 people by Thursday morning, with 26,415 people receiving the recommended two doses, the Department of Health and Welfare reported. Vaccines have been administered to 2,429 people in Blaine County.
On Monday, health-care providers started administering vaccinations to Idahoans age 65 and older, a group that exceeds 260,000 people, not including residents of long-term care facilities. Providers—including the St. Luke’s Health System—had already been vaccinating Idaho health-care workers, first responders, teachers, daycare workers, pharmacists, dentists and correctional/detention facility staff, as well as some other, associated groups of professionals. People in long-term care facilities have also been eligible to receive vaccinations.
The state is directing the administration of vaccines to Idaho residents through a tiered priority system. With Idaho receiving about 21,000 doses of COVID vaccines per week to date, it is expected to take weeks before more Idaho residents are deemed eligible. The next eligible groups will be food and agricultural workers, including grocery workers; manufacturing and public transit workers; Idaho National Guard members not previously vaccinated; and U.S. Postal Service employees. After that, remaining “essential workers” and people with high-risk medical conditions are expected to become eligible—possibly in late April—followed by the general public in May, the state estimates.
The rollout of vaccinations to older Idahoans was met with high demand and many seniors trying but failing to secure appointments. Providers have said the lack of appointments is linked to a lack of ample, guaranteed supply of the two FDA-approved vaccines.
Idaho’s rate of COVID-19 vaccination has been among the lowest in the nation, federal Centers for Disease Control data indicate.
Significant points in the vaccination efforts include:
- Only people who qualify under the state’s guidelines can schedule appointments at this time.
- The St. Luke’s Health System is booking appointments on a rolling basis as it can confirm incoming shipments of vaccine doses. Appointments can be scheduled through the St. Luke’s online myChart system. Those who cannot use myChart can call St. Luke’s at 208-381-9500 to set up an appointment. New patients can call 208-381-9000. For additional information about St. Luke’s services, go to stlukesonline.org.
- The South Central Public Health District is also giving and arranging vaccinations to eligible recipients. The Twin Falls-based district—which serves eight counties, including Blaine—has an office in Bellevue. More information about the district’s program and other vaccine providers—including pharmacies—can be found at phd5.idaho.gov.
- The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has launched a new web page to help Idahoans find information on how to get vaccinated. Go to healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/covid-19-vaccination.