BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho — According to the South Central Public Health District, Blaine County is currently the only county in the Magic Valley at the high-risk level, despite extensive efforts to limit exposure. All seven other counties are at a moderate risk level.
Blaine County also has their own risk assessment tool that puts them at the critical risk level. That's because they take fewer factors into the assessment than SCPHD.
“Blaine County’s is more stringent so it’s not going to be uncommon for Blaine County’s plan to look a little bit more severe than maybe the district plan,” said Brianna Bodily, SCPHD Public Information Officer.
Although the models differ, both SCPHD and county officials agree on how people there may be getting exposed: through small gatherings with family and friends instead of large events.
“What we’re still seeing in Blaine County is that somebody picks it up somewhere and maybe doesn’t know where they picked it up, but then before they realize that they have the disease, they carry it to the people that are within their bubble that they still have close contact with without taking any precautions,” said Bodily.
Another possible factor is travelers coming from areas where COVID restrictions may be a bit laxer. They could get exposed and continue to spread the virus when going to a tourist destination, such as Blaine County.
“We have a lot of people coming from in and out of the area, such as Twin Falls or Shoshone, and out-of-state for people to recreate and work,” said Blaine County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg.
“The counties in Idaho that see a lot of tourism this time of year are all hotspots right now," said Bodily. "That’s pretty strong evidence to indicate the travel in and out of the county may be influencing how many cases we’re seeing right now.”
While the county is at a high-risk level, officials are commending the efforts of people doing their best to stay safe and practice the protocols already in place.
“If we didn’t have increased precautions, we would probably have higher numbers so you have to give credit to the people for remaining vigilant in keeping safe,” said Greenberg.
Both Blaine County's and the Health District's next risk assessment will be released Thursday, February 25.