Tuesday, October 20, 2020
College Students Use COVID to Make Money, Trick or Treaters Told to Think out of the Box
COVID can’t scare Halloween off completely. See St. Luke’s offers recommendations for safe ways to celebrate in today’s Eye.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020



Idaho’s first re-infection of COVID? Purposely infecting yourself with COVID to make money?

Those—and Halloween--are a few of the subjects doctors addressed Tuesday during a virtual press conference.

Both Blaine County and Twin Falls County have seen some steep increases in COVID cases this month.

  • BYU-Idaho University officials this week warned students to refrain from intentionally contracting coronavirus after learning that students were intentionally exposing themselves to get paid for convalescent plasma used to treat some COVID patients. University officials have condemned such behavior, warning students that they risk suspension and, possibly, permanent dismissal.

    They’re also playing Russian Roulette, said Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer for Saint Alphonsus Health System. A few dozen southern Idahoans under 21, including one from the Sun Valley area, have required hospitalization for COVID-related MIS-C (multi-inflammatory syndrome). One includes a teen who was flown to Salt Lake City to await a heart transplant, said Dr. Kenny Bramwell, St. Luke's Children's Hospital medical director.

  • The teen was a previously healthy youngster, he said.

    “It may be there’s a one-in-1,000 chance of dying for a young person. I wouldn’t want those odds anywhere,” Nemerson added.

  • Doctors also addressed the case of a Twin Falls woman reputed to be the first known Idahoan to get re-infected with COVID. The woman  told KTVB she had mild fevers in March, then returned to the hospital recently with a temperature of 103.8 degrees and struggling to catch her breath.

    It was not clear from the news report whether medical authorities confirmed that she was re-infected. Many around the world who thought they were re-infected later learned they were still fighting their original case of COVID.

    Joshua Kern, vice president of medical affairs for St. Luke’s in Magic Valley and the Wood River Valley, confirmed that such a case was reported, but said he didn’t know much more.

    Getting COVID-19 twice is not common but there is evidence it can happen, said Dr. David Pate, a member of the Idaho Coronavirus Task Force in a virtual question and answer hosted by The Idaho Statesman Tuesday afternoon.

    Pate said about 16 percent to 40 percent of those who are infected with the virus may not have measurable antibodies several months later.

    “It’s been demonstrated that people can be re-infected in as little as six weeks,” he added. “If you believe or know you had COVID, you have to take precautions, you should not consider yourself immune and should consider you can be re-infected.”

    Most cases of reinfection are usually milder, Pate added. But there have been a couple cases where people got far sicker the second time.

    That’s the case with a Nevada man who this week officially became the first person in the United States confirmed to be infected twice. He tested positive in mid-April, recovered nine days later, then tested positive in early June.

    Scientists say the genetic discordance in the first and second cases were too great for it to be a recurrence of the original infection. This is the fifth medically recognized case of reinfection worldwide.

    At the same time, University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers said a study of antibodies from 6,000 people showed that high-quality antibodies were still being produced five to seven months after their infection. They added that they believe lasting immunity could be a reality for many people, saying earlier studies focused on short-lived plasma cells rather than long-lived plasma cells.

  • Kern said that the Magic Valley has become one of the hotspots for COVID in Idaho. And this is different from earlier spikes because it involves all the counties.

COVID cases currently make up a quarter of the hospital’s census.

“That’s an unprecedented thing to say that a quarter of your census is from one disease,” he said.  “We’ve never had 40 before, even in the early stages. And I don’t see cases coming down.”

Kern said the Magic Valley had an outbreak in July but, as the community masked and took other precautions, the hospital saw fewer numbers in August and early September. Now, people have relaxed, he said, noting that Arizona saw a 75 percent drop in cases after mandating masks and closing bars.

Doctors said there has not been a lot of school spread because of students wearing masks. Some schools have had high numbers given their population. Others have had no cases. But, with schools reopening, people are feeling that things have returned to normal and are relaxing their precautions, said Kern.

Kern said St. Luke’s Magic Valley had to call in support from physicians in Boise at one point and the availability of beds remain tight.

“We’re admitting influenza patients already. Now’s the time to get a shot. Influenza is in the community,” he added.


Doctors said that Idahoans will have to accept that this year’s Halloween will be different—that it cannot be observed as before due to the high number of COVID cases across southern Idaho.

“Do something at home, do a scavenger hunt. Do things outside the box but be careful,” said one. “It’s not that we want to cancel Halloween but we do want people to think about it differently.”

Low-risk activities:

  • Have a virtual costume contest.
  • Enjoy movie night with the people you live with.
  • Make and bash a pinata.
  • Make and decorate spooky treats.
  • Participate in one-way trick or treating where individually wrapped grab-and-go goodie bags are lined up at the end of the driveway.
  • Take part in an outdoor costume parade.
  • Follow a one-way maze, socially distanced.
  • Learn about Dia De Los Muertos and other cultures’ celebrations.
  • Go all out on decorating your house.
  • Visit pumpkin patches and orchards.

The trick is to avoid high-risk activities involving large groups in close quarters, such as crowded indoor costume parties, haunted houses full of screaming people and hayrides. Traditional trick or treating and trunk or treat activities are also considered risky because of person-to-person contact.


Idaho reported 584 new cases on Tuesday as it approached 50,000 total cases. It now has 49,247.

The state has had 512 deaths—two new on Tuesday.

Blaine County reported four new cases for 775. It was its lowest count in a couple weeks.


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