Health officials say omicron is spreading fast across Idaho

Posted at 11:57 AM, Jan 11, 2022

IDAHO — Idaho has seen the impacts of the very contagious omicron variant. Health officials are still concerned about the number of new COVID-19 cases in the state each day and the pressure the virus and other illnesses are putting on health systems in Idaho.

At a media briefing Tuesday, state health officials said all measures monitored each day for COVID-19 are headed in the opposite direction they want to see, as omicron spreads across Idaho and is infecting more people faster.

Right now, health officials and hospitals leaders say Idaho is seeing the fifth COVID-19 surge as they continue to see an increase in demand for testing, a significant increase in case numbers over the past two weeks.

On Monday, there were 1,495 new cases of COVID-19 reported to the state since Friday according to the Department of Health and Welfare. To date, there have been 4,238 deaths, with 3 new, reported to the state since Friday. Over the past few weeks, health officials have seen the effects of the fast-spreading omicron variant, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases has doubled, according to the Department of Health and Welfare.

Around 88% of infections reported in the state are the omicron variant according to the Department of Health and Welfare, nearly wiping out the delta variant that caused the last spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Idaho.

St. Luke's is reporting a little over 10% of their hospital's volume and close to 30% of their ICU volume is COVID-related as those numbers continue to increase. At Saint Alphonsus, their coronavirus volume has doubled over the past two weeks, from below 20 patients to an in-patient COVID-19 volume of 43 on Thursday.

Multiple health care providers across the state have reported positivity rates above 30% in the past few weeks — far above the 5% goal and cases may still continue to rise.

“Given how contagious omicron is, we are seeing and expect to see large numbers of people coming down with COVID-19. This will likely cause many people to be out of work at the same time. This has a double negative impact on health care systems which include primary care, hospitals and long-term care,” DHW Director Dave Jeppesen said.

Health care capacities are decreasing while demand for care is increasing. Saint Alphonsus announced Tuesday they will be closing three urgent care clinics in Boise, Kuna and Nampa on weekends due to staffing challenges caused by the current COVID-19 surge.

What does that mean for Crisis Standards of Care? Health leaders say it could be possible again due to the number of employees who could be out sick facing the virus.

“Even if omicron were, let’s say half as likely to cause severe disease and I'm not saying that’s the truth, but theoretically if it’s spreading twice as much as the delta variant, we could very well be right back where we were last fall with the same pressure on our health care systems that sent us into Crisis Standards of Care,” Deputy State Epidemiologist Kathryn Turner said.

The current surge began in late December and due to the recent surge of cases, there are approximately 13,060 positive outstanding lab results that are pending local public health district review.