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State: COVID-19 impacting younger people

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | September 15, 2021 1:00 AM

COVID-19 continues to take a toll on younger people, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

In a teleconference call Tuesday, Dr. Kathryn Turner, deputy state epidemiologist, said from mid-April to the second week of September, 7% of COVID-19 deaths in Idaho were in the 18-to-49 age group. That was up from 3% in the same age group and time period in 2020.

And this year from mid-April to mid-September, 57% of coronavirus-related deaths were those 50 to 79. In comparison, last year it was 40%.

“It’s a much longer population losing their lives to COVID-19 this year,” Turner said.

In the Panhandle Health District, 23 people under the age of 60 have died of COVID-19, according to the PHD website.

Turner said that last week, Idaho saw 630 new coronavirus cases in the 13-17 age group, a record since the pandemic began.

She said while the incident rate of the virus for infants to 4 years old has slowed over recent weeks, they are still seeing a record number of cases in that age group.

DHW Director Dave Jeppesen said the rise in COVID-19 cases has led to the highest ventilator use for patients across Idaho, 98 daily average.

“We do not see a peak in sight,” he said.

Crisis standards of care were said to be “imminent” for the Treasure Valley and the Magic Valley.

“Without a course change we’ll be entering crisis standards of care in those areas soon,” Jeppesen said

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare last week said Panhandle Health District and Idaho North Central District entered into crisis standards because of “a massive increase in patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.”

That means resources are stretched so thin patients can no longer expect the level of care they would receive under normal circumstances.

Kootenai Health on Tuesday had 97 coronavirus patients, with 31 requiring critical care.

Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the Division of Public Health, said despite the rise in COVID-19 cases, she has not heard of any patients needing an ICU bed, but going without.

“I think they might be critically close,” she said.

She said hospitals are being creative to find space for patients, sometimes moving patients to other hospitals and moving them out of ICU as soon as they can.

“That’s why it’s important to do everything we can to stop the flow of people coming in to the hospitals,” Shaw-Tulloch said.

Jeppesen again called on Idahoans to get vaccinated. He said that 90 percent of new COVID-19 patients in Idaho are not vaccinated; 91 percent of those hospitalized for the virus are not vaccinated, and 88 percent of Idahoans who died of COVID-19 were not vaccinated, Jeppesen said.

Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist, said a monoclonal antibody treatment center is expected to open today in North Idaho. She called it a "much-needed resource” the can treat nearly 50 patients a day.

Heritage Health, in partnership with Northwest Specialty Hospital, will begin offering an antibody therapy designed to reduce the worst symptoms of COVID-19 and prevent hospitalization for people with mild to moderate cases. 

Individuals ages 12 and up can get the treatment at the North Idaho Fairgrounds. To schedule an appointment call 208-620-5250.  

Officials said there are no plans to return to more stringent statewide measures used initially to combat the spread of the virus, such as closing businesses deemed nonessential and restricting large gatherings.

“The main message we have out there are for folks to consider getting vaccinated,” Jeppesen said. “If not, why is that?”

He said some people just won’t consider the vaccine, some are opposed but have questions about safety and side effects and some don’t have time.

Meanwhile, Shaw-Tulloch said “the flow of sick people into hospitals continues.

“The stress on the hospitals is very real,” she said.