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Officials are not sure whether Idaho’s delta-fueled COVID-19 surge is over yet, writes Post Register reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel. But it’s increasingly clear that COVID-19 is here for the foreseeable future, an administrator of one of Idaho’s largest health care systems said at a Tuesday news conference.

“For the first time in three months, we’ve finally seen a small decline in COVID spread in our communities. This is not universal across Idaho,” said Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer of Saint Alphonsus Health System. “And while we are seeing this and it creates significant hope that we may have finally reached a peak, there is no guarantee that we’ve reached that point yet.”

Nemerson said the health care system continues to see a rise in intensive care unit admissions and deaths, “the vast majority of these as we all know are entirely preventable if only patients would become vaccinated.” State data between May 15 to Oct. 9 showed 88% of cases, 90% of hospitalizations, 92% of ICU admissions and 87% of deaths due to COVID-19 were among unvaccinated people.

“Sadly, today I’m here to tell you that we’ve lost the war,” Nemerson said. “COVID is here to stay.”

The concept of endemic COVID-19 isn’t new. Many national health experts said months ago that the infectious disease was likely to become “endemic” and linger, effectively saying that society would need to learn to live with COVID-19.

Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. State data shows 53% of Idahoans age 12 and up are fully vaccinated, compared to 66% nationally.

You can read Pfannenstiel's full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or look for it in today's Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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