A majority of the Benewah County deaths from COVID-19 in 2021 happened in a 70 day span according to the Panhandle Health District.

Public Information Officer Katherine Hoyer said 72 percent of the deaths occurred from August 27 to November 3. Overall the county saw 25 deaths from COVID-19 in 2021.

Most recently the PHD reported there were 11 deaths in October, two deaths in November and one death recorded so far for the December tally.

Hoyer said the COVID rates in the district have fluctuated over the last several months but an increase has been noted after the new year.

“We were starting to see a decline prior to the holidays, but now we are beginning to see an increase again,” Hoyer said. “This could be due to the holidays and people gathering or this could be another surge. Time will tell.”

With the appearance of a new variant, Hoyer said the PHD does not plan to let its guard down, though so far the Omicron variant is causing less hospitalizations. The district is still encouraging residents to take up the same precautions and seek to be vaccinated.

“There is cause for concern as with any new variant. We are hopeful that the early data indicating that this variant may not cause as severe illness as previous variants (Delta) continues to be what we see here,” Hoyer said. “We do know that the same precautions can be taken to protect ourselves and others. Masking, distancing, staying home when sick, getting vaccinated are all still protective measures we can take.”

As for vaccination rates in the district, Benewah County is at the lower end of the percentage out of the five northern counties.

Benewah County is at a 40 percent vaccination rate for those who are five years and older. In comparison, the lowest vaccination rate can be found in Boundary County with 39 percent vaccinated. The highest in the district is Shoshone County with 47 percent of its population vaccinated.

Things have started to look up with the COVID-19 response in the northern five counties.

Just last month the Panhandle Health District had its Crisis Standards of Care lifted by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare due to the decrease in COVID-19 related hospitalizations.

For more information on COVID numbers in the PHD, call 208-245-4556 or visit the COVID-19 dashboard at panhandlehealthdistrict.org.

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