IDHW Director: COVID-19 test positivity climbing, going to get worse

Dave Jeppesen
Posted at 6:40 PM, Jan 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 16:30:59-05

The current surge of COVID-19 driven by the omicron variant is causing test positivity rates to soar — and it's only expected to get worse.

Test positivity rates increased for the week ending in Jan. 8 up to 25.7 percent, while several Idaho healthcare providers have been reporting test positivity rates as high as 30-40%, according to a memo from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen. In the memo, Jeppesen noted the positivity rate at the peak of the Delta surge was 17.3% for the week ending in Sept. 11, 2021.

The department's goal is a test positivity rate of 5% or lower.

"We expect statewide testing positivity to continue to increase and stay well above the goal of 5 percent for some time to come," Jeppesen said.

Related: 'Just overwhelming': Primary Health seeing record number of patients, near 50% test positivity

IDHW reported 3,266 new COVID-19 cases for Jan. 12, with a backlog of 20,000 positive tests still to be processed. The case count for Friday broke the daily case record for the third time this week. The state also reported seven new deaths, bringing the state's total to 4,270.

Due to the number of people currently infected or who could become infected with how contagios omicron is, Jeppesen said many people will call out of work, including those in healthcare. The number of patients needing care for COVID-19 combined with the number of healthcare workers calling out sick is straining the state's healthcare resources.

Related: Health officials say omicron is spreading fast across Idaho

"That is causing a tremendous amount of stress right now for Idaho’s healthcare systems and we expect that to get worse before it gets better," Jeppesen said.

Jeppesen asks people to take the following precautions to slow the spread:

  • Choose to wear a quality mask. Properly worn masks work to protect others and you.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Choose to get vaccinated.
  • If you have been vaccinated, choose to get a booster.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

"While we do expect more breakthrough cases with the Omicron variant, the data is showing that a booster shot will reduce the risk of severe outcomes, even with Omicron," Jeppesen said in the memo. "And a booster shot will greatly reduce your risk of a severe case of COVID-19."