By Lyndsie Kiebert
Idaho reached a major milestone last week when the number of residents with at least one dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 surpassed the number of Idahoans who have contracted the virus.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters Feb. 16 that 31% of Idahoans in the 65+ age group have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — including many people living in long-term care facilities. Thanks to an increase in doses distributed by the federal government, as well as a boost in enrolled providers scheduling vaccine appointments, the state is inoculating Idaho’s senior citizens at a faster rate than initially anticipated. People older than 65 living independently were given the green light to schedule vaccine appointments on Feb. 1.
Reporting on Little’s AARP tele-town hall Feb. 16, Idaho Education News reported that the governor “seemed his most optimistic … since he announced the first confirmed COVID case in Idaho nearly a year ago.”
During the call, Idaho officials answered questions from citizens about Idaho’s COVID-19 response.
“We’ve made just incredible progress on the viral loading in our communities and infection rate and we’re all excited about that,” Little told those listening in on the call.
The Idaho Statesman reported Feb. 16 that “Idaho averaged just under 160 new cases of COVID-19 per day” over the three days leading up to the report, including catch-up data from over the holiday weekend. The data marks a major change, as many days throughout the pandemic have seen more than 1,000 Idahoans reported having new cases of the virus.
IDHW officials reported 408 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 across the state Feb. 17, bringing the new statewide total to 168,353 since tracking began in March 2020. According to state records, 1,817 Idahoans have died of the virus to date.
In Bonner County, Panhandle Health District reports that 2,921 people have had the virus, 394 of those cases being currently active. PHD also reports that 30 Bonner County residents have lost their lives to COVID-19 as of Feb. 17.
Meanwhile, CBS2 Idaho News reported Feb. 17 that wastewater samples from Boise, Eagle and Garden City had tested positive for low levels of the California and UK variants of COVID-19.
Little tweeted the link to the news story, along with a statement: “The confirmed arrival of the COVID-19 variant in Idaho reinforces the need to continue to practice safety measures & choose to get the vaccine. The safe, rapid, fair, and transparent rollout of the vaccine continues to be my #1 priority!”
Emerging evidence suggests that vaccines currently in use “may be somewhat less effective against some of the new variants” of the virus, according to NPR, but “even against the variants, the vaccines do prevent a lot of mild and moderate cases … and are very effective, health officials say, against preventing severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”
State vaccination data shows that 196,332 Idahoans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Feb. 17, while 71,679 people have received both doses and are considered fully vaccinated. According to local data, 2,810 people in Bonner County have received one dose of the vaccine, and 2,016 are fully inoculated against the virus.
While PHD is handling distribution of the health district’s allocated doses, it is not currently hosting any vaccination clinics in Bonner or Boundary counties, but instead letting local health care providers coordinate clinics of their own. According to PHD’s latest report, enrolled providers in the two most northern counties include Bonner General Health, Sandpoint Family Health Center, Kaniksu Health Services, Boundary Community Hospital, Sandpoint Super Drug, White Cross Pharmacy and Medicine Man Pharmacy.
Those providers are currently seeing people who qualify under phases 1a and 1b of the state’s tiered vaccination plan, including health care workers, first responders, K-12 teachers, people over the age of 65 and more. A full list of who qualifies for vaccination and when can be found at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/covid-19-vaccination. To inquire about how to schedule an appointment, contact your desired provider.
Those in North Idaho without internet access can also request assistance in scheduling a vaccination appointment by calling the PHD COVID-19 hotline at 877-415-5225.
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