‘That is shocking’

Idaho COVID-19 cases skyrocket

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Idaho’s “curve” of COVID-19 cases continues ever upward, with another 1,693 confirmed and probable cases logged Nov. 11 by state health care trackers, bringing the total to 77,121 since recording started in spring 2020. The total deaths in the state are 733.

According to state reports, the Gem State set new records for positive cases in the past week, prompting dire warnings from top physicians in the state, including retired St. Luke’s President and CEO Dr. David Pate, who took to Twitter on Nov. 7 with this message:

“No matter how bad you thought we were or were not in the past, we are way worse today. We have levels of community transmission that most of us could not even have imagined a few months ago, when we thought it was bad.”

A map of the United States showing which states are reporting higher positivity rates for COVID-19 tests. The darker blue states denote 20% or higher positivity rate. Courtesy image.

At that time, Pate wrote that Idaho experienced, on average, 55.5 new cases per 100,000 population. 

“That is shocking,” he stated. “Ideal would be less than 1; I would settle for <5. I am warning you. We are not far away from the point that we will have no choice but to take actions you don’t want our leaders to take.”

Gov. Brad Little moved Idaho back to Stage 3 of its reopening plan Oct. 26, citing concerns about health care capacity constraints. As hospitals around the state fill up with critical COVID-19 cases, they cannot handle the day-to-day influx of injury and illness that typically occupy beds. Thus, the need to stem the tide of the COVID-19 cases is a matter of triage — ensuring the capacity to deal with critical cases by lessening the creation of more cases, that would then further the number of available beds.

Kootenai Health — the largest health care provider in North Idaho — already announced in late October that it was “99% capacity” due to the “surge” in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

“We are definitely in a surge, we are definitely exceeding where we were prior,” Don Duffy, Public Health Services administrator for the Panhandle Health District, told members of the Sandpoint City Council at its Oct. 21 meeting. “It certainly is taxing the resources that we have.”

The Panhandle Health District reported 142 new positive cases Nov. 11, bringing the total to 7,000 in the district. Deaths numbered 88, as of Nov. 11. Meanwhile, more than 250,000 Americans nationwide have died from COVID-19-related causes. 

A total of 54 individuals are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the district, which includes Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone counties. A total of 4,727 cases have been closed, meaning they no longer show symptoms of the virus, which attacks the respiratory system. That total includes those who refused further monitoring or have since died as a result of the virus.

Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone counties are in the “red” category, as determined by state epidemiologists, meaning that community spread and the danger of contracting the virus is high. Bonner and Benewah counties remain in “orange,” enabling schools to remain partially open though individuals throughout the district are strongly urged to wear masks while in public places and maintain social distancing protocols, which are defined as keeping six feet of distance between individuals and refraining from prolonged contact with those who reside outside their own home.

Gov. Brad Little will hold a press conference updating Idahoans on the state’s COVID-19 response Friday, Nov. 13 at noon Pacific Time. Watch at idahoptv.org/idahoinsession/governor.

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