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Idaho COVID-19 update: 'We are now headed in the wrong direction'

Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told the media that the number of COVID cases being reported each day has started to rise.

BOISE, Idaho — The director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare told reporters Tuesday that the state's COVID numbers have taken a turn for the worse. "The key COVID-19 items we watch closely are now headed in the wrong direction," Dave Jeppesen said.

The number of cases being reported each day has begun to rise in the Gem State. Jeppesen says the statewide 7-day moving average in cases per 100,000 has risen from a low of 3.3 on July 5 to 8.2 on Monday. And COVID testing positivity has increased from a low of 2.8% four weeks ago to 4.3% recently.

Another alarming trend is the number of cases in Idaho long-term care facilities where active COVID cases went from a low of 14 a few weeks ago to 21 today.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has been increasing since July 1 and the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU has doubled in that same time period.

"These trends are very concerning, particularly as we look forward to the fall with the return of the flu season and more people returning to indoor activities," Jeppesen said. "The vast, vast majority of people coming down with COVID-19 are being admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated."

Since the beginning of the year, close to 99% of COVID cases in Idaho are attributed to people not fully vaccinated. While 98.6% of all hospitalizations are people who were not fully vaccinated, and 98.7% of COVID deaths are attributed to people not fully vaccinated.

Jeppesen urged people to consider getting the vaccine. So far, 700,000 Idahoans and more than 160 million Americans have taken the vaccine since it was first offered late last year. He reiterated the vaccines are safe and very effective.

Tourist spots and highly-populated areas like Las Vegas and Los Angeles are asking people to mask up in many settings, even if they are fully vaccinated.

A major thing experts are tracking is the delta variant. While there is still research into if it is a more dangerous strain, there is belief among experts that it is more contagious than other strains, if not the most contagious out right.

So, at what point would Health and Welfare recommend stricter COVID protocols like masks indoors for everyone like in Los Angeles?

Jeppesen couldn't give real specifics of a tipping point where they would change recommendations but said they would continue to monitor important data like hospital and ICU capacity, as well as case counts.

This comes as the start of the school year nears and the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that schools require face masks for all children older than 2 and all adults.

There is still a lot of public outcry in Idaho over mandates to get vaccinated. On Monday, nearly 1,000 protestors gathered outside St. Luke’s Meridian to voice their opposition to the St. Luke’s decision that all employees will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 1, or face termination.

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