St. Luke's testing 3.JPG

Testing takes place at a St. Luke’s COVID-19 screening location in Boise.

The United States is heading into the bleakest part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Idaho is at the top of many of the wrong lists in regard to the pandemic, according to the Nov. 29 White House Coronavirus Task Force weekly report.

“The COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high. The national daily COVID incidence after Memorial Day, but before the summer surge, was fewer than 25,000 new cases/day and is now more than 180,000 new cases/day,” the report said. “COVID inpatients then were fewer than 30,000 but are now more than 90,000; fatalities have more than doubled. We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity; a further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall.”

Idaho has the highest seven-day average test positivity rate in the country at 22.9%, a case rate of 489 per 100,000, 140 higher than the national average, and a death rate of 3.7 per 100,000, also higher than the national average of 3.1 per 100,000, according to the White House report.

In Boise and Idaho Falls, over 85% of intensive care unit beds were in use last week, and 66 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals each day from Nov. 21-27.

In Central District Health, which is comprised of Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties, community spread is so rampant that contact tracers are unable to determine where clusters are.

During the Dec. 1 CDH Board meeting, Community Disease Control Manager Kim Link said the nearly 3,000 cases per week being reported in Ada County had made determining clusters impossible.

“The situation where we are at now, with case numbers as high as they are in reference to our population, we cannot detect discrete clusters,” Link said, noting that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 was rising precipitously everywhere.

“The risk is so high from living what had been normal daily life, and the numbers, from numbers of cases to hospitalizations, are heading in the wrong direction,” Link said.

The White House report suggests further restrictions across Idaho to reduce both hospitalizations and deaths, and calls Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s recent mask policy “an excellent example” of those kinds of restrictions.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force is also warning that anyone over age 65 or who has significant health conditions should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked. And for anyone under 40, they are advising that if they gathered beyond their immediate household for Thanksgiving to assume they are infected with COVID-19.

“Most likely, you will not have symptoms; however, you are dangerous to others and you must isolate away from anyone at increased risk for severe disease and get tested immediately,” according to the report.

“If you are over 65 or have significant medical conditions and you gathered outside of your immediate household, you are at a significant risk for serious COVID infection; if you develop any symptoms, you must be tested immediately as the majority of therapeutics work best early in infection.”