By Lyndsie Kiebert
The U.S. hit a major milestone in the fight against the novel coronavirus on Aug. 2, announcing that 70% of American adults had received at least one dose of a vaccine against the disease. President Joe Biden and his administration had hoped to reach the goal by July 4, but instead announced the news a month late with “no celebration,” “nor a setting of a new target,” according to PBS Newshour.
The milestone comes amid an increasingly bleak turn of events in the pandemic, which has so far spanned 18 months, as the more contagious Delta variant of the virus makes its way through largely unvaccinated populations across the country. NPR reported that the Delta variant is 225% more transmissible than the original strain of COVID-19 and, according to Reuters, 97% of infected Americans entering hospitals are unvaccinated.
While vaccinated people are capable of contracting COVID-19 — something known as a “breakthrough” infection — research shows that their symptoms are typically less severe.
“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told NPR. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk.”
Idaho ranks next-to-last based on the number of residents with at least one dose of a vaccine, just above Mississippi. As of Aug. 4, 78.2% of Idahoans 65 years of age and up were at least partially vaccinated, as well as 50.4% of all people 12 and up. Nationally, those numbers are 67.7% and 90%, respectively.
Gov. Brad Little on Aug. 3 urged more Idahoans to seek out coronavirus vaccinations, which are available at most pharmacies for walk-in appointments, in order to secure some normalcy for the state’s student population come fall.
“Simply put, we need more Idahoans to choose to receive the vaccine for kids to have a chance at a normal school year, one that is entirely in person, without outbreaks and quarantines,” Little told reporters during an Aug. 3 press conference.
Still, while across the country authorities debate whether COVID-19 vaccines should be mandated, Little has stood firm against any such regulations in Idaho. The governor went so far as to sign an executive order April 7 banning so-called “vaccine passports” in Idaho, effectively outlawing the ability for any state entity to limit access to public services based on whether someone has received the vaccine.
“Idaho law does require Idahoans receive a COVID-19 vaccine and, while I strongly encourage Idahoans to choose to be vaccinated, it is a personal choice and some Idahoans because of their age, medical condition, or religious objection are unable to receive a vaccine,” the executive order stated.
According to Bloomberg, state officials are reporting that the current rate of infection among Idaho kids ages newborn to 4 is 53 per 100,000 — up from just 16 per 100,000 two weeks ago. There is currently no vaccine authorized for children under 12 years of age. While the surge in national cases has prompted the CDC to recommend masking up in schools this coming academic year, that decision is left up to local school boards.
“It’s really incumbent upon the adults in their lives and older teens to be vaccinated to sort of cocoon these kids away from the risk of becoming infected,” state epidemiologist Kathryn Turner said at the Aug. 3 media briefing. “Does it worry me? It does.”
The CDC is also recommending that all adults — vaccinated or not — wear masks in public indoor settings in U.S. counties experiencing “substantial” and “high” rates of transmission. As of Aug. 4, the CDC ranks Bonner County in the “high” category — the most extreme rate of transmission — and Boundary County as “substantial.”
See current Idaho COVID-19 data at coronavirus.idaho.gov. Those seeking a vaccine can visit covidvaccine.idaho.gov to learn more.
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