Dave Jeppesen by Brian, file

Dave Jeppesen, Idaho Health and Welfare director.

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At least 60,000 Idahoans tested positive for COVID-19 in January, according to the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard. The number is almost as many as last September and October combined.

Additionally, data for part of January is incomplete. Over 42,100 positive tests are pending local health district review and follow up, the dashboard said.

“The COVID-19 numbers across the state continue to go the wrong direction,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in a media briefing Tuesday. “Last week, the statewide testing positivity rate set a new record at 38.8%.”

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized and in the ICU continues to increase, Jeppesen said.

Hospitalizations remain above the fall 2020 peak but below the fall 2021 peak, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. ICU admissions are similar to the fall 2020 peak but below the fall 2021 peak when the state first entered crisis standards of care.

In late January, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare activated crisis standards of care for Southwest District Health, Central District Health and South Central District Health.

Southwest District Health covers Canyon, Adams, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington counties; Central District Health covers Ada, Boise, Elmore, and Valley counties; South Central District Health covers Blaine, Cassia, Camas, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, and Twin Falls counties.

These three districts entered crisis standards due to severe staffing and blood shortages.

Currently, deaths remain below previous peaks. Around 188 people died from COVID-19 in January.

“The vaccine is the best way we have to turn the tide with COVID-19,” Jeppesen said. “In particular, getting a booster shot is key.”

Data from Dec. 1, 2021 through Jan. 29, 2022 showed Idahoans with boosters were 11 times less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 20 times less likely to die, according to a graphic provided by the Idaho Department of Welfare during Tuesday’s call.

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Idaho is in the bottom five of states for percentage of residents fully vaccinated, according to New York Times data. Less than 15% of children aged 5-to-11 are fully vaccinated, and slightly over a third of children aged 12-to-17 are fully vaccinated.

Through all age groups, the Gem State is behind the United States totals.

Less than 1% of minors, around 20% of adults and 55% of seniors have had a booster shot, all below the United States figures.

This week, Novovax announced it had formally asked the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said it could help those who are vaccine-hesitant.

“This is a more traditional vaccine,” Hahn said. “I’m hopeful that there might be a few folks that find this reassuring.”

Carolyn Komatsoulis covers Boise, Meridian and Ada County. Contact her at 208-465-8107 and follow her on Twitter @CKomatsoulis.

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