Idaho schools could face staff shortages, amid omicron wave



Nampa students returned to class on Thursday, and COVID-19 appears to be on their heels. As of Friday morning, there were 24 staff and 56 students.

NAMPA, Idaho – This article was originally published in the Idaho Press.

Students in the Nampa School District returned to class on Thursday, and already COVID-19 appears to be on their heels.

As of Friday morning, there were 24 staff and 56 students, said Kathleen Tuck, director of community relations for the school district, and she expected the numbers to increase throughout the day on Friday. While the reason for the absence is not always reported, trends in the wider community point to COVID-19, Tuck said.

Treasure Valley healthcare providers shared this week that they are seeing high demand for COVID-19 tests as the region follows the rest of the country in a new wave of pandemic driven by the omicron variant. These tests show high positivity rates, including among young people, although some districts in the Treasure Valley have not yet returned to school.

But most children in Idaho are not vaccinated and most local school districts currently do not require masks, which could stem the spread of the virus, doctors say.

“If that positive rate continues to be high, and I think it will be, and the kids go back to school, what’s going to happen is the teachers are going to get infected, whatever they are.” vaccinated or not, ”said Dr David Peterman, pediatrician and CEO of Primary Health Medical Group. “And the result of that at some point, whether it’s teachers, babysitters, or drivers … your kids won’t be able to go to school.”

The omicron variant is one of the most contagious viruses known to man, and is more contagious than the delta variant, the spread of which led to the implementation of crisis care standards statewide in September. Now, as the spread of omicron is attributed to an increase in cases, hospitalizations and health worker shortages, health care providers plan to have to return to crisis care standards soon due to the scarcity. resources, as previously reported by the Idaho Press.

The percentage of children vaccinated in Idaho is very low, Peterman said. Only 11% of children aged 5 to 11 are fully immunized in Idaho, according to the Idaho Division of Public Health Immunization Dashboard. This figure is 35% for 12-15 year olds, 41% for 16-17 year olds and 48% for 18-24 year olds, according to the website.

Although children are generally not as susceptible to COVID-19, they are more likely to be asymptomatic, the large number of children exposed to this variant means that there will be a greater number of children who will fall very sick, Peterman said.

“We have examples across the country where pediatric units are full,” Peterman said.

Nationally, the number of pediatric patients hospitalized at many facilities has doubled or quadrupled, Dr. Kenny Bramwell, medical director of the St. Luke’s Children’s system, said at a press conference Thursday.

“You know, historically Idaho has been between two and five weeks behind the rest of the country,” Bramwell said. “So I think it will happen (here) soon. “

When a child is brought to a primary health clinic for a COVID test, clinic officials collect the family’s zip code and match it to the student’s corresponding school district. Even before the students returned from winter break, positivity rates – the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive – were increasing.

As of Thursday evening, the positivity rate for the previous six days for 13 to 18-year-olds was 30%, and it was 22% for 5 to 11-year-olds, Peterman said. A population with a positivity rate of less than 5% is considered to have the epidemic under control. In adults, the positivity rate is between 30% and 33%, he said.

Coupled with low vaccination rates in school-aged children, there is great potential for a high number of cases and disruption of school operations, Peterman said.

While the vaccination is protective, masking in schools could also go a long way in reducing the spread of omicron among children and adults, Peterman said.

“From a pediatrician’s perspective, the way to keep kids in school is for everyone to wear masks,” Peterman said.

Local school districts have various plans to deal with the omicron outbreak. In Nampa, the district administration board, including three new school board members who ran on individual choice platforms, have no plans to meet to reassess protocols, such as the mask requirement, Tuck said.

The West Ada School District, whose students returned from Monday vacation, reported a total of 95 cases of COVID-19 on Friday morning: 11 staff and 84 students, according to the district online dashboard. Masks are not compulsory in the neighborhood. The board did not intend to discuss pandemic protocols at its next board meeting on Monday on Friday, Char Jackson, district public information director, said via email. .

The Caldwell School District reviews its pandemic protocols at every board meeting and will do so at its board meeting on Monday, said Jessica Watts, director of public information for the district. Masks are currently recommended, but not required, according to the district’s website.

Kuna School District implemented a rapid testing program for its students and staff in December, district communications director Alison Westfall said by email. When the district returned to school earlier this week, officials began reviewing the revised guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and how that might affect school protocols, Westfall said. If it is determined that changes are needed, they will need to be approved by the district administration board at its Tuesday meeting. Masks are not currently required in the district, Westfall said.

The Kuna School District examines the number of cases in the Kuna district and town every two weeks, Westfall said. The next review date will be Friday. As of January 6, the district COVID-19 dashboard reported 228 absences, including 53 COVID-related absences and 15 positive cases.

The Boise School District will resume classes on Monday. The Boise School District has been requiring masks since before school starts in the fall. The agenda for the district board meeting scheduled for Monday includes a “Update of pandemic / endemic planning.

The Vallivue school district will also resume classes on Monday. The district has implemented an optional mask policy since the start of the school year, depending on the spread within the school district. The agenda for Tuesday’s borough council meeting includes a review of the school’s ready to re-engage plan or pandemic protocol plan.

This article was originally published in the Idaho Press. Read more on

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