Positivity rates in coronavirus tests climb, ICU patients are younger

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean hosted health care administrators for a coronavirus briefing Wednesday to provide an update on the Delta coronavirus variant in Idaho. 

The doctors stressed the importance of vaccinations and continuing to wear masks indoors as the Delta variant continues to rip through Idaho.

Primary Health Medical Group CEO Dr. David Peterman said as of Wednesday, the number of positive tests his clinics are seeing daily is comparable to what he saw in January.

The positivity rate among tests conducted at Primary Health clinics was at 20%. The statewide goal is to keep that rate below 5%.

The number of infections in children ages 5-12 has tripled, Peterman said. 

“If more people were vaccinated, if we wear masks indoors, our kids can safely return to school,” he stressed.

St. Luke’s Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jim Souza talked about the trends the health system has seen recently. 

Across St. Luke’s hospitals right now, there are 78 patients hospitalized with COVID, Souza said. That number has doubled in two weeks and more than 95% of those people are unvaccinated. The average age of a COVID patient is now 59.

Souza stressed that 78 may not seem like a huge number, but it means 15-20% of the entire adult bed capacity is occupied by one diagnosis. 

While Souza spoke, he said there are currently 9 people in the emergency departments at St. Luke’s waiting for a bed. He said last week, St. Luke’s had a pediatric ICU patient who spent their entire stay in the emergency department, due to no beds.

Dr. Patrice Burgess of Saint Alphonsus said testing at Saint Al’s is now showing a positivity rate that’s climbed from 4% to 17%. 

“We are back in a very vulnerable stage again,” she said.

Burgess said the hospitals are also especially busy because many people delayed regular care in the early stages of the pandemic, so dealing with a COVID surge on top of that is challenging. 

“The patients in the ICU now are younger, they are sicker, and they are unvaccinated,” Burgess said. “We have patients in their 30s on ventilators, and we were not seeing that in the beginning but we are seeing that now, which I suspect is partly due to the Delta variant.”

For information on where vaccines are available, visit coronavirus.idaho.gov/covid-19-vaccine/.

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