TWIN FALLS — It's been just over one year since Idaho has its first confirmed COVID-19 case and since then the Magic Valley has been through plenty of high lows. Currently, the region is coming out of a particularly rough stretch in terms of high case and hospitalization numbers from the fall and early winter months.
Seven of the eight Magic Valley counties are at the minimal risk level with only Blaine County being at the moderate risk level.
Public Information Officer for the South Central Public Health District, Brianna Bodily, said, “This risk assessment was launched in August of last year and this is the most green we have seen on the risk assessment since we started it. So, at least since August, this is the best place that we have been in.”
St. Luke's COVID hospitalizations are down from early winter, where nearly half of the patients were COVID cases. “I do think things improved quicker than I think we would have predicted. The fact that we got down to just two patients in the hospital a week or two ago, it was very surprising,” said Dr. Joshua Kern, the Chief Medical Officer for St. Luke's Magic Valley.
St. Luke's experienced a slight uptick in patients today according to Dr. Kern who said there nine confirmed COVID patients. Yet, he was still happy to see low numbers.
There are numerous factors health officials are taking into play for why COVID case numbers are down. Some of it is because of the vaccines or the fact there hasn't been a cause for gatherings like an important holiday.
Yet one reason is also because of what is being called "the Double Bubble Phenomenon."
"It's where you've got a certain percentage of the community that has not been really interested in following precautions and therefore has had the virus. We had many of them in the hospital during our big surge and now has a degree of immunity. Then there is another larger percentage of the community that has not seen the virus but continues to take some sort of precautions and therefore keeping the spread of the virus down," said Dr. Kern.
Some areas throughout the state are beginning to see case numbers rise again. Health officials want to reinforce that the Magic Valley is not out of the woods yet and that there is some concern cases go back up here.
“There is definitely concern that some people will see that green and say “Ok I don’t have to wear a mask. I don’t have to social distance. I’m going to get together. I’m going to have my parties again.” Then we will start to see COVID-19 take a more firm route in our community again after months of beating it back,” said Bodily.
To prevent numbers from rising and long-term impacts, people will need to continue to take the necessary precautions like washing hands, social distance, and wear a mask.
Dr. Kern said, “It’s not just death that’s a problem. I personally know five people, not my patients, who have long COVID syndrome and fatigue after getting a COVID infection, and they’re under 40.”