Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Idaho Reopens Fully Despite Rising COVID Count
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The recipe for personal safety has not changed, even though Idaho is loosening coronavirus restrictions. As this young Y camper can tell you, it still involves wearing a face mask and practicing physical distancing.
   
Friday, June 12, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

State officials had to use different calculations than the one they started out with in May to determine whether they could loosen restrictions in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic.

But Idaho will be fully reopened on Saturday, June 13—three months after Gov. Brad Little ordered Idaho residents to shelter in place to slow the spread.

Stage Four, which the state moves into on Saturday, is the final phase of Idaho’s reopening plan.

 
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Paul Ries noted that Idaho reported 42 new cases as the state allowed all businesses to reopen. There were no new cases in Blaine County, which remains at 515.
 

Little said it was important to continue the state’s economic rebound.

“We almost did not make it to Stage Four this week,” Little said during a press conference Thursday.  “Despite our incredible progress, there are some in Idaho who are not practicing measures to keep themselves and others safe.”

The fourth and final stage means that all businesses will be allowed to open their doors. That includes sports stadiums, bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries and nightclubs, provided they follow certain guidelines.

Gatherings of more than 50 people will be allowed to take place, as long as social distancing and other protocol are practiced. Employers can resume unrestricted staffing.

Assistive living facilities will be allowed to receive visitors. And non-essential travel is permitted.

Only three states have fewer coronavirus restrictions than Idaho. The other three are South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Right behind Idaho in fifth place is Utah.

But Idaho is one of nearly two dozen states that are seeing cases of coronavirus rising since loosening restrictions. Arizona, Utah, North Carolina and Arkansas have been particularly troubling, with Arizona on the brink of running out of intensive care unit beds.

Idaho’s daily coronavirus caseload has increased by more than 50 percent during the past month as Idaho moved into Stages Two and Three of reopening. Current hot spots in the state are in Twin Falls, Minidoka, Cassia, Ada and Canyon counties.

The state recorded 42 new cases on Thursday, bringing its total since March to 3,302. Twin Falls County added yet another new death for a statewide total of 86.

Blaine County reported no new cases—its cases remain at 515.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn attributed part of the surge due to increased testing. The state began testing up to 10,000 people the last week of May—double what it was doing in early May.

The state has seen clusters at food processing plants in the Magic and Treasure Valley. There were even a few clusters attributed to large family gatherings in eastern Idaho. And, on Thursday the Central District Health District warned Boiseans that they could have been exposed had they gone bar hopping on June 5 or 6. At least 10 individuals visited multiple bars on those dates while infected.

Criteria for moving on included a downward trend in new cases and a downward trend in emergency room visitors. In addition, hospitals needed to have a comfortable amount of personal protective equipment, ventilators and intensive care unit beds.

During the last two weeks hospitals in the state have seen only 15 COVID-related emergency room visitors. The biggest spike took place on March 16 as the coronavirus was beginning to spread throughout the state. There were 89 emergency room visits that day.

The state started out basing its decision for moving from one stage to another on a 14-day moving average. But the department changed to using day-to-day numbers within the 14-day window leading up to this latest decision.

That’s why it reported a downward trend in new cases, even though the state was averaging 37.2 cases per day—higher than the 29 cases it averaged two weeks earlier. The new reporting method also allowed the state to report a downward trend in new infections among health care workers, which has climbed to 2 per day from 0.5 per day earlier.

There have been no new cases of infection among health care workers since Saturday.

Additionally, state’s positive testing percentage was below 5 percent, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

While the state prisons have reported no cases of COVID-19, the virus has hit nursing homes hard, especially in Twin Falls and Lewiston. At last report, there have been 289 coronavirus infections at 25 care facilities.

Little reminded Idahoans that it’s critical that everybody in Idaho be part of the team, practicing physical distancing, wearing face masks, staying home when sick, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces and covering coughs and sneezes.

“I’m convinced that if we do this, just like after the 2009 recession, Idaho will lead the nation and the world in their economic rebound,” he said. “But it is dependent on each and every one to practice that good behavior so we can manage this until we get a good therapeutic or vaccine.”

Nationwide, more than 114,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. And infections have surged since Memorial Day when many states relaxed their restrictions.

The United States will see 250,000 deaths if it continues at its present rate, Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter Laurie Garrett said on MSNBC Monday night. Garrett is author of “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance.”

“Some people mistake the idea that society is safer because things are reopening. But the reality is that we’re no safer today than weeks ago during full lockdown,” said Dr. Lawrence Kleinman of Rutgers University.

A BIT OF BRIGHT NEWS

Idaho's suicide rate has gone down during the pandemic, the Department of Health and Welfare reported on Thursday.

TAIWAN KEEPS IDAHO IN SURGICAL MASKS

Idaho’s Community Health Centers has received 100,000 surgical masks from Taiwan through the Idaho office of Emergency Management.

The Centers have also received $200,000 from the Cambia Health Foundation.

Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, helped secure the PPE when the Idaho Chinese Organization reported it was having trouble getting PPE from its regular suppliers. The transaction from Taiwan, which has crushed its curve, comes at a time when hospital workers in some states are being told they may have to again start reusing PPE as hospitalizations due to coronavirus spike.

The Idaho Chinese Organization also has donated 20,000 medical gloves and 120 N95 masks.

TREASURE VALLEY Y CLOSES BUT JUST TEMPORARILY

The Downtown Boise YMCA was briefly closed for cleaning this week after staff learned that a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 had visited. It was determined the visitor had limited exposure to those at the Y.

TOUCHLESS KING TUT COMING

The Discovery Center of Idaho will reopen on July 7 with a traveling exhibition on King Tut. Visitors will need to sign up online for an entry time before visiting. Reservations can be made up to a week in advance at www.dcidaho.org.

CHARDONAY SANITIZER, ANYONE?

French winemakers are turning millions of gallons of unsold wine into hand sanitizer, with the help of funding from the government, according to NBC News.

Wine sales have dropped 50 percent during the coronavirus as bars and restaurants shuttered. It didn’t help that exports to the United States have dropped, due to tariffs.

SAVE YOUR LEI FOR BALDY

Hawaii has extended its quarantine for out-of-state travelers to July 31 as mainland states see new increases in coronavirus cases. The Aloha State will, however, lift self-quarantine mandate for inter-island travel beginning Tuesday.

The state recently arrested an islander who failed to self-quarantine for 14 days after she visited San Diego.

FINGERS CROSSED BUT…

Russia has rolled out a drug to treat patients suffering from the novel coronavirus. The antiviral drug is called Avifavir and was approved under a special accelerated process with shorter clinical trials using fewer people than other countries.


 

 

 

~  Today's Topics ~


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