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Health officials shift to long-term pandemic response

Posted at 7:18 AM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 09:18:23-04

IDAHO — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decline statewide, health officials are shifting their outlook on the virus toward long-term management.

In a briefing with the media on Tuesday, Department of Health and Welfare officials pointed out several positive COVID-19 indicators. However, many said they were wary of believing coronavirus left the Gem State.

“Cases and test positivity are now low, but the pandemic is not over,” DHW Division of Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said. “The virus that causes COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future.”

On Sunday, Idaho passed its second anniversary of living with the coronavirus. Since then, officials say health care opportunities and resources have greatly improved — including the widespread availability of high-quality masks, vaccinations, and treatments.

Related: Idaho marks two years of COVID-19

As Idaho enters a “new phase” of the pandemic, Shaw-Tulloch said many DHW COVID-19 practices would change. Notably, DHW will no longer report daily case counts on the state’s coronavirus dashboard as the result of at-home tests becoming more popular.

Shaw-Tulloch said the dashboard would be updated regularly to report accurate statewide positivity rates, hospitalizations and ICU bed availability.

While COVID-19 trends are declining steadily, Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner said Idaho would continue to see occasional outbreaks.

“With all of these reasons to be optimistic, we do expect that we will continue to have intermittent waves of increased COVID-19 spread in our communities,” Turner said.

Officials are monitoring the potential for new variants that have been reported outside of the United States.

Related: 'Stealth omicron' fueling China's biggest COVID-19 outbreak since 2020

The statewide testing positivity rate dropped to 3.7% last week, which is well below the official’s goal of 5%.

Idaho has reported nearly 440,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 23 new positive results within the last few days.