Nurse (copy)

Nurse Ann Enderle attends to a COVID-19 patient in the medical intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise on Aug. 31. Idaho has declared a Crisis Standard of Care for all hospitals statewide in response to the state’s most recent coronavirus surge.

There are currently more active COVID-19 cases in Bannock County alone than there were throughout all of the Southeastern Idaho Public Health District’s eight-county service area at the previous height of the pandemic, public health officials confirmed Friday.

Public health records show there were 1,250 active cases within the SIPH coverage area on Friday, factoring in the 210 new cases reported district-wide on Friday. Of that total, 727 active cases were from Bannock County, including 118 new Bannock County cases confirmed Friday.

“Right now we have more active cases in bannock County than at the last high point for the district overall,” SIPH Director Maggie Mann said.

Mann said the extremely high case count is an “indication that the virus is widely circulating in our community” and that “many more people are going to get sick.”

On Thursday, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced the statewide declaration of Crisis Standards of Care, allowing Idaho health care providers to ration care and acknowledging “health care resources are inadequate to provide the usual standard of care due to extraordinary circumstances, such as an overwhelming disaster or public health emergency.”

“We know hospitalizations tend to trail those increases by a couple of weeks. Those hospitals are already stressed,” Mann said, adding there are no outlets in other parts of the state or region for taking Southeast Idaho patients as hospitalizations continue to rise because other regions are facing the same challenges. “We anticipate the situation will worsen, not just for COVID but people who need any kind of hospital-based care.”

Mann said the district hopes to avoid a situation in which a car crash victim, for example, requires a level of medical care that can’t be provided.

“We are essentially pleading with people to make the choice to wear face coverings when they’re in public, to get vaccinated if they’re not already and to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID,” Mann said.

Within SIPH, 51 percent of people 12 and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 46 percent are fully vaccinated. Transmission levels are skyrocketing, nonetheless, due to the incredible virility of the delta variant, which now accounts for 98.9 percent of Idaho cases.

Mann said the latest data shows COVID-19 vaccines still reduce transmissibility of the virus by 65 percent. Moreover, the vaccine is highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death.

Southeast Idaho’s public schools have ended hybrid schedules that had groups of students rotating between in-person and remote learning to reduce class sizes. They have also lifted indoor face mask requirements. Mann said students under age 12, who currently have no access to vaccines, could become eligible to receive them by late October.

Every Friday, Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 posts its COVID-19 cases for the week on an online data tracker, which can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3Ewp6yT.

As of the Sept. 17 report, 26 staff members and 97 students within School District 25 were known to have active COVID-19. Four schools within the district had double-digit tallies of active cases among students: Pocatello High School had 21 cases, Highland High School had 17 cases, Century High School had 16 cases and Hawthorne Middle School had 11 cases.