The Week In Idaho’s COVID-19 Situation: Record Cases And Deaths, Again

BY KEVIN RICHERT / IdahoEdNews.org

All of Idaho’s key coronavirus metrics continued to move in the wrong direction this week.

New case numbers peaked again, for the seventh consecutive week. Deaths hit another weekly peak. And on Tuesday — the same day Idaho reported single-day peaks in cases and deaths — 404 Idahoans were hospitalized with COVID-19. That too was a single-day peak.

On Friday afternoon, the state and its seven health districts reported 89,899 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases, a 12 percent increase from last week.

As case numbers and deaths continued to rise, the school opening debate continued on the local and state level.

A second large district, Caldwell, joined the Boise School District and shifted to online learning for the balance of 2020.

ALSO SEE: Coronavirus News, Updates, Resources From NWPB

In a guest opinion issued Friday, several education leaders maintained that schools are not “super spreaders” of the virus. But they said Idaho’s case numbers are on a “perilous trajectory,” and urged Idahoans to wear face masks, wash their hands frequently and practice social distancing.

Gov. Brad Little adjusts his mask during a July 9 press conference at the Statehouse.

File photo. Gov. Brad Little adjusts his mask during a July 9 press conference at the Statehouse. CREDIT: Clark Corbin / Idaho Education News

“The pandemic is not partisan,” they wrote. “Enabling our students to go to school, with all the developmental and extracurricular opportunities it has to offer, is not partisan either. It is a moral and economic imperative.”

The guest opinion was co-signed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield, Idaho Public Charter School Commission Chairman Alan Reed, Idaho Association of School Administrators Executive Director Andy Grover, and Idaho School Boards Association Executive Director Karen Echeverria. Notably absent from the list: the Idaho Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

In other coronavirus headlines:

K-12 cases continue to rise. On Monday, the Department of Health and Welfare reported at least 485 new coronavirus cases in the K-12 system, a one-week increase of 49 percent. Many of the hotspots are West Ada and Boise high schools; Boise will shift all of its schools to online instruction after Thanksgiving break.

Colleges head into Thanksgiving break. Fall face-to-face learning wrapped up Friday at Boise State University, and the University of Idaho and Idaho State University will also shift online after the break. Meanwhile, Northwest Nazarene University returned to face-to-face instruction Wednesday, after a one-week stay-in-place directive.

Strains on the system. The coronavirus is placing other pressures on K-12 schools.  More than 11,600 students didn’t show up for fall classes, according to State Department of Education data, leaving local staffers scrambling to track down these no-shows. Districts are also struggling to find enough substitute teachers, and some are bumping up their pay in order to attract subs.

ALSO SEE: Coronavirus News, Updates, Resources From NWPB

Vaccines on the way? K-12 teachers could be among the first Idahoans to get a coronavirus vaccine — and conceivably, that could begin to happen by the end of 2020. There is cause for optimism, but logistical questions surround the vaccine rollout, and the situation in Idaho schools is likely to get worse before it gets better.

This week’s numbers (and comparisons with last week):

Statewide data Nov. 13 Nov. 20 Change, Nov. 7-13 Change, Nov. 14-20
Cases, confirmed and probable 80,104 89,899 9,210 9,795
Total cases, ages 0-4 1,245 1,356 132 111
Total cases, ages 5-12 2,739 3,125 357 386
Total cases, ages 13-17 4,580 5,208 602 628
Total cases, ages 18-29 21,783 24,143 2,285 2,360
Deaths 752 846 73 94
Patients ever hospitalized 3,102 3,492 277 390
Patients ever admitted to ICU 602 673 28 71
Patients recovered, estimated 34,482 37,232 2,513 2,750
Idahoans tested 424,415 448,001 21,327 23,586
Health care workers infected 4,457 4,749 286 292
Positive test rate (based on all cases divided by testing numbers, as reported by the state) 18.9 percent 20.0 percent +1.3 percentage points +1.1 percentage points
Top five counties, by total cases Nov. 13 Nov. 20 New cases, Nov. 14-20 New cases per day, per 100,000 population
Ada 20,966 23,065 2,099 62.3
Canyon 12,217 13,482 1,265 78.6
Bonneville 5,838 6,644 806 96.7
Kootenai 5,670 6,514 844 72.8
Twin Falls 5,664 6,312 648 106.6
Hotspot counties (weekly increase of 10 percent or higher) Nov. 13 Nov. 20 New cases, Nov. 14-20 New cases per day, per 100,000 population
Ada 20,966 23,065 2,099 62.3
Bannock 3,398 3,832 434 70.6
Bear Lake 127 159 32 74.6
Bingham 2,121 2,432 311 94.9
Bonner 696 839 143 44.7
Bonneville 5,838 6,644 806 96.7
Boundary 286 327 41 47.8
Canyon 12,217 13,482 1,265 78.6
Cassia 1,776 1,966 190 113.0
Clearwater 245 362 117 190.9
Custer 119 131 12 39.7
Franklin 491 583 92 94.7
Gem 566 729 163 128.6
Idaho 523 659 136 116.6
Jefferson 1,227 1,383 156 74.6
Jerome 1,578 1,748 170 99.5
Kootenai 5,670 6,514 844 72.8
Latah 1,342 1,565 223 79.4
Lewis 145 172 27 100.5
Madison 3,271 3,697 426 153.3
Nez Perce 1,618 1,990 372 131.5
Oneida 95 117 22 69.4
Owyhee 469 557 88 106.3
Shoshone 371 452 81 89.8
Teton 423 475 52 61.2
Twin Falls 5,664 6,312 648 106.6
Valley 188 210 22 27.6
Washington 581 659 78 109.3

Originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on November 20, 2020