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SCPHD: Three south-central Idaho counties headed toward critical risk levels

Coronavirus-confirmed healthcare workers can return to work without being testing negative
Posted at 12:25 PM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 14:25:35-04

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The South Central Public Health District is warning those in the Magic Valley to take action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

SCPHD says Twin Falls, Cassia, and Minidoka counties are headed toward red (critical) risk levels.

As Idaho News 6 has reported, there has been a steep rise in COVID-19 cases in the Magic Valley. For the last several weeks, the area has seen a 40% increase each week in positive COVID-19 cases. As of right now, 25% of St.Luke's Magic Valley's patients are COVID-19 positive, something they say is very unusual.

“Our case trends and the impact we are seeing to our healthcare system is alarming,” said Melody Bowyer, SCPHD District Director. “If we continue this course we will likely reach critical risk level by next Thursday in several counties.”

Case counts in the rest of the district are also trending upward, the district says, with the majority of cases in the region reported in young people ages 18-39 years old.

Data from the district shows cases reported among children ages 5 to 17 in the region have increased dramatically since August. Two of those cases developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), a severe and potentially fatal condition associated with COVID-19, SCPHD said.

“Young people are not immune to this disease. Our concern is that our youth will be infected and pass the disease on to the rest of their household- including their elderly and vulnerable family members,” said Bowyer. “Our investigators have found many individuals who have tested positive recently attended small social gatherings, like sporting events, where they may have accidentally spread the virus.”

“Don’t wait for public health to call you. We are working quickly and expanding our staffing but, in some cases, it still may take a few days to make contact,” Tanis Maxwell, Epidemiology Program Manager. “Don’t wait to reach out. Let your close contacts know as soon as you get your test results so they can quarantine and keep the virus from spreading further.”

The district explains close contacts are people who have spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of a person who has a confirmed case of COVID-19. According to SCPHD, contact tracing should include people who have had that contact up to two days before symptoms began or someone tested positive for COVID-19. Close contacts should quarantine for 14 days starting the day after their last contact with a confirmed case. SCPHD says individuals who have tested positive should completely isolated for at least 10 days and meet other epidemiological criteria before they leave their home.

“Our case counts are surging beyond anything we’ve seen so far in this pandemic. We need to put our politics and personal differences aside to come together and protect our community," Bower said.

Most counties in south-central Idaho are currently in the high risk (orange) tier for COVID-19 spread. Among other recommendations, SCPHD urges all residents in these communities wear masks in public places, take extra precautions at sporting events, limit gatherings to fifty or fewer people, and high-risk individuals take extra precautions to safeguard their health.