The South Central Public Health District moved Blaine County’s COVID-19 risk level from “high” to “critical” on Thursday, warning that mounting COVID-19 cases are putting unsustainable pressure on area hospitals.
“The local and regional hospitals are highly impacted and struggling to find care for patients coming in to the hospital,” 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 rate of new cases continues to rise quickly, the district reported—and those numbers still fall short of a full count.
“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. (Visitors are counted towards COVID-19 statistics in their home state.)
On Thursday, the district was monitoring 83 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Blaine County and 10 probable cases, approximately double the number of cases it was monitoring two weeks earlier and about four times the number from four weeks earlier.
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The Health District continues to investigate an “active outbreak” in the Blaine County jail and a Blaine County long-term care facility, but investigations have been hindered by the recent surge in cases, the district stated.
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.
The risk assessment released Thursday used data from Aug. 8-24. 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.
In the 14-day period, 41 new COVID cases were recorded in Blaine County, 12 more than the previous two-week period. Eight were recorded in each of the 18-29 and 50-59 age groups, seven in each of the 30-39 and 60-69 age groups, five in the 40-49 group, two among children in each of the 0-10 and 11-13 groups, and one in each of the 14-17 and 70-plus categories.
The rate of positive tests for COVID-19 was up slightly at 4.98% and the 14-day rolling average of new cases per 10,000 residents was 1.27, up from 0.90 two weeks earlier.
The increases in cases and positive tests have been recorded even though Blaine County has the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in Idaho, with 82% of eligible recipients ages 12 and older fully vaccinated. “Breakthrough” cases—in which a vaccinated person contracts the virus—have been recorded in Blaine County.
The Health District determined that Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties also have “critical” COVID-19 risk levels. Camas and Lincoln counties have “high” risk levels.
COVID-19 cases have steadily increased across the United States since late June. On Wednesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded approximately 165,000 new cases in the nation, with the seven-day moving average of new cases at more than 142,000. The seven-day moving average was fluctuating between 10,000 and 15,000 for much of June.
On Wednesday, the CDC rated Blaine County’s COVID-19 transmission level as “high,” its highest level. People in counties where the CDC has rated the transmission level as “high” or “substantial” are advised by the CDC to wear protective masks when indoors, including people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Every Idaho county currently has a “high” transmission, according to the CDC’s rubric.
Idaho recorded 992 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the state Department of Health and Welfare reported