Virus Outbreak US Deaths

A worker moves items at a temporary medical facility set up last year to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic at Temple University’s Liacouras Center arena in Philadelphia.

Reported COVID-19 deaths dipped in eastern Idaho last week, following two weeks of high reports.

Eastern Idaho Public Health reported eight COVID-19 deaths last week, according to the Post Register’s tally, which is down from the two prior consecutive weeks with 12 deaths each. Weekly virus deaths in the region peaked at 18 in the week ending Nov. 21.

The region’s previously high death count put its death rate at levels last seen in January, when the state was exiting a monthslong surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and nearly overwhelmed hospitals. The current rate more closely aligns with its rate from April, just after a brief surge made it a national hotspot.

Two of the eight deaths reported in regional residents last week were under 60 years old. Reports were made public for a Bonneville County man in his 40s and a Jefferson County man in his 50s who both died of COVID-19, according to Eastern Idaho Public Health email reports to media.

About two-thirds (64.3%) of all COVID-19 deaths in eastern Idaho have occurred in Bonneville County. Roughly 88% of the region’s deaths were among people age 60 and older. About 61% of deaths were in males.

Meanwhile, infections and deaths increased across Idaho long-term care facilities. In a report released last Friday, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 279 new cases and 13 new deaths — both are the highest those figures have been for months. But death rates do not appear to be at similarly high levels, compared to previous weeks of high case counts.

“To me, this is screaming the vaccine works and is living evidence the vaccine works,” Dr. Megan Dunay, medical director for the Idaho State Veterans Home in Boise, told the Post Register last month.

People who live inside skilled nursing homes are much more likely to be vaccinated than the general population.

About 83% of nursing home residents are vaccinated, compared to 62% of facility staff, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Seventy-eight percent of Idahoans age 65 and up are fully vaccinated, state data says, compared to 53% of Idahoans age 12 and up.

Experts and officials say the COVID-19 vaccine offers immense protection against COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death. Data released last week by the state health department found that 89% of COVID-19 cases, 90% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 88% of COVID-19 deaths between May 15 and Oct. 2 were among unvaccinated people.

Last week, in total, three new outbreaks were reported and the number of facilities with resolved outbreaks (or four weeks since the last confirmed case) rose by six. That’s the first time that number has grown since June. Re-outbreaks in long-term care facilities caused outbreak figures to grow for months.

About 42% of all COVID-19 outbreaks reported in long-term care facilities since the start of the pandemic are currently active, according to the Post Register’s analysis of state health data. Two-hundred outbreaks have been resolved, while 142 are active. Idaho is home to slightly more than 400 long-term care facilities, according to the state health department.

To date, at least 11,215 COVID-19 cases and 868 COVID-19 deaths have been linked to Idaho long-term care facilities. The facilities are linked with about 28% of Idaho’s more than 3,100 COVID-19 deaths.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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