Idaho marks two years of COVID-19

Posted at 5:07 PM, Mar 14, 2022

Two years ago, Idaho recorded its first-ever case of COVID-19.

The case recorded was a woman in her 50s living in southwest Idaho. At that time there had been only 1,629 total cases in the United States and 41 deaths total. The virus quickly spread around the country, infecting millions.

Over the last two years - Idaho has seen five different surges of COVID-19 cases. Throughout that, there have been over 437,000 cases reported, 926,000 fully vaccinated, and over 4,000 deaths.

After the worst surge in COVID-19 cases, Idaho now has a statewide percent positivity rate of 3.7% - one of the lowest rates we have seen since the start.

“Early on, many of us had no idea where this was going. What we saw with some of the prior outbreaks, historically they break off quickly and so we didn’t see a global pandemic like we did with the coronavirus,” St. Luke’s Clinic President Robert Cavagnol said.

Cases spiked, then leveled out multiple times over the last two years but those spikes forced health care workers to make tough choices and work overtime.

“We’ve asked a lot of our clinical teams, and our other teams supporting them to do more, accept more patients, open up more beds and learn a bunch of new science to take care of these patients. I'd say right now, our teams are just trying to catch a breath,” Cavagnol said.

Idaho saw a historic vaccination effort to help combat cases. Shots became available for Idahoans 16 and up last April, but Idaho remained one of the least vaccinated states and the waves kept coming.

“The reality is, without a course change we will be entering Crisis Standards of Care soon,” DHW Director Dave Jeppesen said last September.

The state entered Crisis of Standards of Care for the first time, statewide on September 16th, 2021, then they were deactivated at the end of last year. Due to the quick spread of omicron, the plan was put back into place.

“We are concerned. We of course have been watching each new variant and don’t know in the beginning how serious it's going to be,” State epidemiologist Christine Hahn said last November.

The omicron wave set new records in daily cases reported and created a backlog of positive tests for the state, but now two months later, the state is getting closer to "normal” with a percent positivity rate of 3.7% which is under the Department of Health and Welfare's goal of 5%.

“I think it's ok for people to start being a little less restrictive, but at the same time if conditions change we need to be mindful, and as painful as it will be, we need to be willing to go back to some of those public health measures,” Cavagnol said. “I think there's more to come. We can’t declare victory yet as much as we would like to, we just have to be willing to do what it takes to mitigate this if needed.”