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Idaho hospitals are still operating under crisis standards of care.

Idaho is seeing a some improvement in COVID-19 statistics but the numbers of new cases, positive test results, hospitalizations and deaths remain high, the state’s top health administrator said Tuesday.

Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, issued the assessment in the department’s weekly online media briefing.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the state has been declining but is still elevated, Jeppesen said, with 843 new cases recorded on Monday. The department recorded 768 more cases on Tuesday and an additional 724 on Wednesday, bringing the total during the pandemic to 298,634.

The rate of positive COVID-19 tests in the state was 10.3% last week, Jeppesen said, more than twice the state’s target rate of 5%—at which spread is significantly more controlled.

The average number of COVID-related hospitalizations in the state last week was 439, with an average 139 patients in an ICU and 75 on ventilators for serious respiration problems.

On Thursday, Idaho health-care facilities were still operating under crisis standards of care because of high numbers of patients, meaning that care can be delayed or can be substandard because of limited capacity and resources.

“The short answer is that Idaho will be able to exit crisis standards of care when the surge of patients no longer exceeds the health-care resources available,” Jeppesen said.

The state has passed the 3,700 mark for COVID-related deaths, Health and Welfare reported, including the first death of a child from COVID-19 in the state. The department announced Tuesday that an infant in southwest Idaho died from complications of COVID-19 in October.

No additional details will be released to the public, the department stated, to protect the privacy of the child’s family.

“Our hearts go out to the family of this child,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the Idaho Division of Public Health. “Infection with the virus can have devastating impacts on families, and this situation highlights the seriousness of COVID-19.”

Nearly 900 COVID-related deaths have been recorded among children in the United States since the start of the pandemic, Health and Welfare stated.

Health and Welfare is continuing to encourage Idahoans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a means to prevent hospitalizations and deaths, and to bring an end to the pandemic.

In Idaho and across the nation, all people 5 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.

Dr. Christine Hahn, medical director of the Idaho Division of Public Health, specifically encouraged pregnant women to get vaccinated. In 2021, four women in Idaho who had been pregnant in the previous year have died from COVID-19, she said, and COVID-19 was determined to be a cause or underlying cause in two stillbirths.

“These deaths remind us how serious COVID can be, even in younger populations and for young families,” she said.

Dr. Guillermo Guzman, an obstetrics and gynecology physician in the Saint Alphonsus Health System, said he has seen COVID-19 cause women to lose pregnancies, to go into premature labor and to have babies requiring weeks of special medical care. COVID-19 vaccines can prevent patients from having a “poor outcome” of long-term illness or death, he said.

Nationally, COVID-19 cases are trending upward, after steadily dropping in September and October. On Tuesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded more than 81,000 new cases, with the seven-day moving average of new cases at approximately 75,000. The number of new daily cases had dropped below 15,000 in late June.

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