Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Blaine County Sees an Alarming Spike in COVID Cases
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Shorty’s Diner in Hailey prepared for cooler temperatures when diners can’t dine outside by installing plexiglass barriers between booths this week.
   
Thursday, October 1, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

COVID GRAPHS BY PAUL RIES

COVID? It still resides in Sun Valley, and it’s getting out of hand again.

Blaine County residents are being encouraged to buckle down with the practices that helped slow the spread last April as cases zoom.

 
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Happily, Blaine County only recorded only two new cases on Wednesday after a whopping 11 a few days ago.
 

Blaine County had 614 cases on Sept. 15. Yesterday--Wednesday, Sept. 30—it recorded its 683rd case.

That’s 69 cases in two weeks after a summer in which the county might have recorded one case one day, two another and zero other days.

And the county recorded 11 new cases on Saturday, Sept. 26—its largest single-day increase in cases since April 8.

Blaine County had just 567 cases as it headed into August.

 
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Idaho recorded its worst day since Aug. 6 on Wedneday with 614 new cases. The largest number of cases is in the 18-to-29-year-old age group (12,046 cases) followed by 30-to-39-year olds (7,156 cases), which account for nearly half of all cases in Idaho, said Paul Ries.
 

“It’s discouraging to have managed the influx of people over the summer, only to have this happen in the fall,” said one Hailey resident.

There is no one big event that caused the spike, said Brianna Bodily, public information officer for South Central Public Health District. Nearly all the cases have been traced to someone who abandoned precautions while attending gatherings with friends or family and took it home to family.

The spread is not coming from work in most cases, she said.

“This upward trend of cases is seen not only in Blaine County but in most of our district and even across the nation,” added Bodily. “I don’t know if it’s because we’ve hit the end of summer and people are trying to make the most of the waning warm weather or whether it’s a pervasive and growing caution fatigue. But we are seeing a significant increase in cases across the district and many of those cases are the result of social gatherings.”

Blaine County’s spike comes as COVID-19 cases have doubled in south central Idaho over the past four weeks and the state continues to see a high number of cases.

The case count in the region has doubled from a reported 187 cases during the last week of August to 471 on Saturday, Sept. 26. The district had its largest single day case jump with 151 cases on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Six of the district’s eight counties, including Blaine, have had significant increases. Other counties seeing significant increases over the past four weeks include Twin Falls, Cassia, Camas and Minidoka. Jerome County’s cases surged midway during that time but have leveled out. Lincoln County’s cases rose slightly and have dropped significantly since.

The state, which had just eclipsed 20,000 cases heading into August, now has 42,048. It has recorded at least 400 cases in eight of the past 10 days, with 614 new cases on Wednesday. The seven-day average increased for the 14th straight day—from 261 on Sept. 15 to 449.3 on Tuesday.

The state has had 469 deaths, with many of those coming the last two months. It had just 177 deaths heading into August.

 “This isn’t one event exposing people to the disease. This isn’t one county facing a surge,” said Logan Hudson, South Central Public Health Division administrator. “We’re looking at an increasing trend across most of the district that may continue to rise if people don’t take precautions.

As with Blaine County most of the spread throughout the district can be traced to someone becoming infected at work or a social event, then unintentionally bringing the disease home to their family, said Tanis Maxwell, the Epidemiology Program manager.

“If we can incorporate social distancing and mask use into our daily lives, we can continue to socialize but protect our families from disease,” she added.

Dr. David Peterman, a pediatrician with the Primary Health Medical Group in the Treasure Valley, told reporters last week that anyone two and older should be wearing masks, even in child care. He noted that South Korea made masks mandatory and that country has lost fewer than 500 South Koreans to COVID-19.

Laura McGeorge, an internal medicine doctor with St. Luke’s, concurred: “We don’t consistently wear masks in our society and that could be one of the big differences between us and what happened in the southern hemisphere.”

The Blaine County School District has had six students and two staff test positive for COVID since Sept. 8 when school began. That includes three Wood River High School students, one Wood River Middle School student and two Alturas students. The staff were at WRHS.

Other school districts have not fared as well. Camas County’s schools shut down following an outbreak.

And Emmett School District officials told 134 students and five staff members to quarantine for two weeks after four students tested positive and nine were considered probable. The cases were said to originate with family members.

Another 25 students and six staff members are suspected cases, according to The Idaho Statesman.

Health officials stress that things could get worse this fall as flu and other respiratory illnesses impair some people’s immune systems.

People are advised to:

  • Limit time spent indoors away from your home. If you want to meet with others, put on an extra coat and meet around a fire pit or under a heat lamp.
  • Get your flu shot by the end of October. And, be forewarned, there is a waiting period of up to two weeks at some venues dispensing the shots.
  • Continue hiking even as the temperatures turn nippy. And, when the snows come, switch to snowshoes or cross-country skis.
  • Wear a mask when you’re likely to come in contact with others. It’ll prevent you breathing out the virus if you’re asymptomatic. And, chances are, it’ll offer you some protection from others, as well.
  • Rub a dub dub and wash those hands.
  • Consider skipping Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings with loved ones. Or, take extreme precautions.

For more information, contact SCPHD at 208-737-5965 for Spanish translation and 208-737-1138 for English.

 

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