TWIN FALLS — Within the past week, Blaine County has witnessed a spike in COVID activity. The COVID risk level for the area went up from minimal to moderate with a positivity rate of 8.58% and 1.43 new cases per 100,000 residents.
Despite the risk level moving up, what has health officials concerned is that some of the new cases are variants of COVID-19, which had yet to be seen in South Central Idaho.
"From what the science tells us about these variants is that they are a little bit more contagious," said Logan Hudson, the Division Administrator for the South Central Public Health. They may be a little more, may cause a little bit more disease in terms of illness and hospitalizations.”
The health district received laboratory confirmation of 12 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 CA variant (B.1.429) and four confirmed cases of the COVID-19 UK variant.
The arrival of the variants and rise in case numbers is being attributed to travel in and out of the area. This is the first time the health district has seen numbers rise due to travel in quite some time. Beforehand health officials were seeing a rise in cases because of small gatherings.
In an earlier interview, Brianna Bodily, the Public Information Officer said, “It’s not a huge surprise. I mean we’re right around Spring Break right now, and people are getting antsy to get out and get moving again. But it is a really good reminder that COVID-19 is still spreading and that whenever you travel, you still absolutely need to take precautions to protect yourself.”
Despite all of the recent COVID activity, officials are looking to remain optimistic about future numbers in the Blaine County area.
“Now that the ski season is wrapping up, I believe at the end of the week and people start to move out and there’s not a real big tour season right now until it starts to warm up a little. We may see a huge drop in numbers up there,” said Hudson.
Now that warm weather is approaching, officials are aware of people wanting to get outdoors, especially after spending the majority of the last year inside, but they are urging caution.
Hudson said, “Do it responsibly, if you stop at a gas station or a store, respect those employees and other people in the store by social distancing, and or wearing a mask and make sure you’re keeping your hands clean. Then of course if you’re sick just stay home and get over it. ”