By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
COVID-19 test positivity rates, or percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive, continue to climb in Idaho after a quiet spring, with more documented spread in eastern Idaho and the panhandle than in other areas of the state. But unlike previous surges, hospitals are nowhere near hitting a crisis point.
Public Health District 1, which covers Boundary, Bonner, Benewah, Kootenai and Shoshone counties, recorded a test positivity rate of 19.1 percent for the week of May 22. Public Health District 7, which covers Lemhi, Custer Clark, Fremont, Madison, Teton, Jefferson and Bonneville, documented a positivity rate of 18.4 percent during that same time.
Most of the rest of the state stayed below 10 percent, and the statewide positivity rate came in at 9 percent. Positivity rates of higher than 5 percent indicate uncontrolled community spread of the virus, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
While testing data isn’t complete – most public health districts don’t count at-home rapid tests – other metrics also indicate a spread. Boise’s COVID wastewater testing showed the highest viral loads since January 2022.
This bump in COVID-19 is fueled by a highly contagious variant, but this version of the virus isn’t resulting in a commensurate number of deaths and hospitalizations.
On June 1, Saint Alphonsus reported just 27 COVID patients. St. Luke’s reported 24 hospitalized COVID patients, with just one in the intensive care unit. Statewide, hospitals reported 76 total hospitalized COVID-19 patients on May 30, including two pediatric patients and six total in the ICU.
While those numbers are the highest Idaho has recorded since March, they’re still lower than at any point during the entirety of 2021, including periods when the statewide positivity rate was lower than what it is currently. During crisis standards of care in late September 2021, hospitals reported almost 800 COVID-19 patients.
Idaho Reports reached out to the IDHW for comment, and will update when we hear back.