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Idaho COVID-19 hospitalizations set another record; Kuna school latest to close

By Rachel Roberts Idaho Statesman

Idaho’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit yet another high, with a record 760 people in facilities statewide as of Monday, including a record 202 patients in intensive care.

The state’s seven-day moving average stayed above 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day for the 13th consecutive day, at 1,205.6. Crisis standards of care were implemented statewide last week, at the request of the St. Luke’s Health System.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare added 1,354 cases and 25 deaths to the state’s fast-rising totals on Wednesday. Among those deaths was an individual between the ages of 18 to 29, while eight individuals were 80 or older, five were in their 70s, five were in their 60s, four were in their 50s and two were in their 40s.

Idaho has lost 2,687 residents to the virus, with a case fatality rate of about 1.09%.

Before the most recent surge, the previous high for COVID-19 hospitalizations in Idaho was 496 on Dec. 10, 2020. Two weeks ago, Idaho’s virus hospitalizations stood at 613, according to data from Health and Welfare.

St. Luke’s hospitals were caring for 279 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, with 87.81% of those being unvaccinated. Of the 61 St. Luke’s patients in ICU, 98.36% are unvaccinated. Saint Alphonsus is caring for 153 COVID-19 patients.

As of Wednesday, there are 16 adult ICU beds that are open, staffed and available for occupancy in Idaho, according to Health and Welfare.

Kuna charter school closes because of COVID-19

Pi STEM Academy, a public charter school in Kuna, will be closed Thursday and Friday because of COVID-19, according to a letter sent Wednesday from the school’s executive director to parents.

“We do have a positive case in our staff and it is an individual that interacts with students and teachers in every building,” the letter from Jill Hettinger reads. “Additionally, we currently have a fair number of students that are out with COVID or COVID symptoms awaiting tests.

“To date, we have not linked any of our COVID cases to interactions at school, but I have concerns that this may not still be the case.”

The school’s board is scheduled to meet Friday night to assess the situation and decide how instruction will be conducted moving forward. Parents are asked to notify the school of any COVID-19 symptoms or positive tests to obtain “a clearer picture of the number of cases that we currently have in our Pi STEM community.”

Idaho courts update COVID-19 measures

Citing the current surge in COVID-19 cases and the harm it has done to Idaho’s health care system, the Idaho Supreme Court announced it is taking additional measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Starting Monday, Sept. 27, most court hearings will be online, with the exception of all trials on a petition to terminate parental rights and all felony sentencing hearings. Courts must provide a publicly accessible livestream any time the public cannot be physically present in a courtroom for a proceeding traditionally open to the public.

No new jury trials will begin between Sept. 27 and Dec. 6, and no new grand juries may be impaneled during that time frame. Existing trials or grand juries are allowed to continue.

Anyone in a publicly accessible space of a building used solely for court business must wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth and must maintain 6 feet of social distance from people who do not live in their household. In a mixed-use building that contains both court and noncourt operations, anyone entering a courtroom, a clerk’s office or counter area, or other spaces used for court business, must comply with masking rules.

The order also provides discretion for local administrative judges to take further steps to protect public health and safety.

Boise Farmers Market goes drive-thru only

The Boise Farmers Market canceled its walk-in market on Saturday and instead is encouraging the public to use its drive-thru market.

The market reversed course after it had announced that it would require vendors and customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test within 48 hours to attend the market earlier this week. The market hasn’t announced its protocols for October.

The deadline to order drive-thru products has been extended to noon on Thursday.

“We will be working closely with the city to find a plan that honors our commitment to safety, public health and supports our farmers, and makers,” the market said in a press release Wednesday. “We will continue to assess our plans and communicate with our customers about what they can expect moving through the month of October, which will mark the end of our regular season.”

Mormon church asks for masks in temples

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a letter Wednesday asking all temple patrons and workers to wear masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Our desire is to keep temples open,” the letter reads. “As cases of COVID-19 increase in many areas, we want to do everything possible to allow temples to remain open.

“Therefore, effective immediately, all temple patrons and workers are asked to wear face masks at all times while in the temple. These safety protocols are temporary, based on COVID-19 conditions, and will be rescinded as soon as circumstances permit.”

The letter from President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors also encouraged COVID-19 vaccination to “do all you can to protect yourself and others.”