Support Local Journalism

After a monthslong lull, coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are surging in Idaho while state health officials spot more cases caused by the ultra contagious delta variant.

The seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in Idaho since July 1, according to the Post Register’s compilation of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare data. In that same time, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in intensive care units has nearly doubled.

“The overall state COVID-19 numbers have taken a turn for the worse in the past few weeks,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.

The news came as cases are rising in all 50 states, weeks after the delta variant became the dominant strain of coronavirus in the nation. Experts say delta could threaten unvaccinated communities with large outbreaks.

In Australia, officials said last month that the delta variant could be transmitted in interactions as short as five to 10 seconds.

About 49% of all eligible Idahoans have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to 65.6% of all eligible Americans, according to Idaho’s data. Idaho has the fifth-lowest share of residents age 12 and up who are at least partially vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vaccines are believed to be effective against the delta variant and many other strains. People who weren’t fully vaccinated accounted for almost 99% of all COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths this year, according to a graphic produced by the state health department. In April, all adults became eligible for the vaccine in Idaho.

“What this means is the vaccines work, and the people who are getting sick from the virus that causes COVID-19 are the people who are not fully vaccinated,” said Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch. “What we know is that people are receiving protection from the virus through the vaccine. And vaccines are keeping people from getting sick, keeping people out of the hospital and saving lives.”

Fully vaccinated

Fully vaccinated

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says the vast majority of people getting sick with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated.

Idaho’s top public health researcher, Dr. Christine Hahn, said 26 of 284 recently analyzed coronavirus positive test samples were caused by the delta variant. That’s in addition to the nine delta cases already identified. Hahn said some of the latest test samples may be from non-residents or duplicates of people already counted as a delta case. Official numbers will be released Thursday, she said.

Hahn said she expects to see more delta cases in Idaho as testing for variants expands in the state.

“We’re hoping that Idahoans understand this as a warning that we do have delta here, we do have the numbers increasing. And we urge you to … go ahead and consider vaccination now,” Hahn said. “We do anticipate we will see numbers rise, we will continue to see more people in the hospital because we know this variant is starting to spread.”

To date, more than 197,000 Idahoans have reportedly contracted the coronavirus. At least 2,176 Idahoans have died from COVID-19; 802 COVID-19 deaths in Idaho have been linked to long-term care facilities.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.