Regional Risk Summary

On Thursday, the Health District showed all eight of its counties at the "critical" level of COVID-19 transmission risk.

The South Central Public Health District maintained Blaine County’s COVID-19 risk level at “critical” last Thursday, Oct. 7, stating that a high number of new cases continues to put strain on regional hospitals.

The state’s declaration that Idaho health-care facilities can implement crisis standards of care remains in place, the district’s online informational dashboard notes, and St. Luke’s Wood River continues to take some non-COVID patients from around the region. Crisis standards allow hospitals and clinics to defer and delay care, to treat patients in non-traditional settings and to provide normally substandard treatments.

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

Blaine County’s average rate of new cases is in the “high” risk tier, the district reported. As in previous assessments, 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 district stated.

The Health District is investigating COVID-19 cases in a long-term care facility and in Blaine County schools, it stated. However, investigations continue to be slowed by the high volume of 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 last week used data from Sept. 19 to Oct. 2. In the 14-day period, nearly 125 new COVID cases were recorded in Blaine County, the district reported. New cases were recorded in all age categories, with the most in the 30-39 age group, at nearly 30. The district reported between 10 and 20 new cases in each of the 0-10, 18-29, 40-49, 50-59 and 60-69 age groups.

The rate of positive tests for COVID-19 was up slightly at 10%, from 8.27% two weeks earlier. The 14-day rolling average of new cases per 10,000 residents was 3.63, up from 2.98 two weeks earlier.

The impact on hospital capacity in the region was determined to be “critical.”

The Health District was monitoring 179 confirmed and 26 probable COVID-19 cases in Blaine County on Friday. Two weeks earlier, the numbers were 136 and 29. By Sunday, 2,864 cases had been recorded in Blaine County, the state Department of Health and Welfare reported.

The Health District determined that Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties also had “critical” COVID-19 risk levels.

The risk assessment is conducted every two weeks to inform residents of COVID-19 risk and to guide public officials and agencies in their responses.

COVID-19 hospitalizations remain elevated

Statewide, high numbers of new COVID-19 cases are continuing to fill hospital beds in Idaho health-care facilities. On Oct. 6, the last day of reporting, 709 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in 50 different facilities, the Department of Health and Welfare reported. On Sept. 20, the state set a record during the pandemic for the number of COVID-related hospitalizations, with 760 COVID-19 patients being treated in 47 Idaho hospitals and clinics.

The number of adult COVID-19 patients in Idaho ICUs—which has been at record highs in recent weeks—was 176 on Oct. 6, down slightly from previous days. That same day, 12 ICU beds were available statewide, with the number climbing to 21 by Sunday, Health and Welfare reported.

In the St. Luke’s Health System—the state’s largest health-care system—581 patients were in hospital beds on Monday, Oct. 11, with 173 of those patients positive for COVID-19. The number of in-patients is close to the system’s total number of hospital beds.

Statewide, 268,660 COVID-19 cases had been recorded by Sunday, Health and Welfare reported. The number of new cases in Idaho appears to be decreasing but recent data are incomplete, Health and Welfare stated on its COVID-19 website.

“Several local public health districts are behind in their reporting to the state due to the high volume of new cases,” the agency stated.

The state has recorded 3,122 COVID-related deaths, including 22 in Blaine County.

Nationally, COVID-19 cases are on the decline, data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate. The CDC recorded approximately 192,000 new cases on Sept. 1. Though numbers have fluctuated, they have gradually decreased in recent weeks, with slightly more than 106,000 cases recorded last Friday.