Idaho remains in Stage 4, officials discuss mask mandates and school operations

Posted at 3:04 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 18:41:27-04

BOISE — Idaho will remain in stage 4 another two weeks.

Since June 13 Idaho has been in stage four. This is the third time Idaho has failed to advance past this stage, and the data today shows an increase in hospitalizations in certain parts of the state.

"We're not where we want to be with our coronavirus situation in Idaho," said Little.

Governor Little says the state will continue with the local approach.
There's an increased spread in Ada, Canyon, Twin Falls, Bonneville, and Kootenai county.

Lewis, Clark, and Butte still show no confirmed or probable cases, and governor little says there are several counties with zero positivity with testing.

Governor little said Thursday the one thing that will slow the spread is everyone wearing a mask. However, governor little says there aren't plans for statewide mask mandates.

"The evidence I'm getting back from some of these areas where they don't have mask mandates is the percent of the population wearing masks is going up," said Little,

"but at some point, I time if people don't voluntarily do it, a mandate as this health district has here, is very important."

The numbers don't look great — there's still upward trends in certain areas of the criteria to move stages.

"We saw a definite increase in our emergency department for visits with COVID-like illness, which is one of our showstoppers in terms of advance," said Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist.

As hospitals have shared in the past, they can't see and test people in the ER unless they're experiencing severe symptoms.

"I know they're screening at alternate sites to try and keep the emergency department as safe as possible; on the other hand, we don't want severely ill people to wait either we want them to come and get care if they need it," said Hahn.

The state didn't meet the criteria to advance out of stage 4 due to these increases. However, parts of the criteria could change soon, according to Hahn.

"We are hoping to update our metrics," said Hahn,
"we'd like to include more information about numbers of people hospitalized and numbers of people in intensive care because we do believe that is our best indicator right now of how severely this illness is impacting some Idahoans."

Dr. Hahn met with the hospital association this afternoon to discuss those plans and potentially add more hospital data in the metrics.

Governor Little and central district health officials also touched on back to school plans as kids are set to start again in school in just a few weeks.

Russell Duke with Central District Health says they're still working on the fine details.

He says a solid plan in place, but they're deciding what the numbers and criteria would be to pick which category different schools fall into. The framework released says category one means no community transmission. Category two is minimal community transmission. Category three accounts for substantial spread.

"Are we in category one, category two, or category three, I'll tell you one thing, we're not in category one with the minimal (spread) so trying to get that basically dialed in and then make it down to the public I understand there's a sense of urgency," said Duke.

Duke says the category we're currently in might change by the time school is set to begin, and we still have to wait another week until more metrics are publicly available for districts and families.

Boise School District, which is advised by Central District Health, will have a special meeting on August 3 to make a decision on opening schools.