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Health

A Dominant Delta Variant In Idaho Means More Risk For The Unvaccinated, Including Kids

A young boy sits at a desk in a classroom. His back is to the viewer.
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The Delta variant is now the most common COVID-19 virus variant in Idaho.

Among COVID-19-positive virus samples sequenced by state laboratories from mid-June to mid-July, 83% were the Delta variant, said Dr. Christopher Ball, the chief of Idaho Bureau of Laboratories, during a media briefing Tuesday.

The Delta variant is at least twice as contagious than the other varieties.

That aligns with worsening virus trends Idaho saw in the month of July. The seven-day-average case rate is four times higher than it was a month ago. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions are up roughly 40% and 60%, respectively, and the test positivity rate increased, too, to 8% at the end of July.

Only five states have lower vaccination rates than Idaho, where 37.5% of the population is fully vaccinated. All of this means people who are unvaccinated are more vulnerable, state health officials said Tuesday.

And that includes kids under the age of 12, for whom there’s no authorized COVID-19 vaccine. That’s the most vulnerable group right now, said Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner.

“It’s really incumbent on the adults in their lives and older teens to be vaccinated to sort of cocoon these kids away from the risk of becoming infected,” Turner said.

She says the COVID-19 case rate for kids under the age of 4 in Idaho has more than tripled in the past two weeks.

“So, does it worry me? It does,” Turner said.

Cases are rising for elementary-school-age kids too, but the number of kids landing in the hospital with COVID-19 has not increased.

Gov. Brad Little said more people getting vaccinated now will decrease the risk to schools this fall.

“Simply put, we need more Idahoans to choose to receive the vaccine if our kids have a chance at a normal school year,” Little said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all teachers and students wear masks at the start of the school year, regardless of vaccination status, because of the Delta variant. Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare said a workgroup will release school-related guidance in a few weeks, but mask policies will be set by school boards.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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