Idaho’s COVID-19 test positivity rate on the rise; hundreds of students quarantined

Posted at 5:30 PM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 19:30:39-04

This article was originally published by Rachel Roberts and Michael Lycklama in the Idaho Statesman.

Idaho’s COVID-19 test positivity percentage is once again headed in the wrong direction.

After back-to-back weeks with a decrease, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on Thursday reported a statewide positivity rate of 8.1% on 17,702 tests for the week of Sept. 13-19. That’s up from 6.7% on 18,257 tests for the week of Sept. 6-12.

Health and Welfare originally reported a positivity rate of 6.9% on 13,377 tests for Sept. 6-12, but those figures were updated with additional tests on Thursday.

Health officials say a rate below 5% demonstrates control over the spread of the virus.

Five of the state’s seven public health districts showed an increase in positivity percentage from the previous week. Eastern Idaho Public Health had the highest rate at 12.4%. Boise-based Central District Health dropped to 4.6% from 4.9%, and Southwest District Health, which includes Canyon County, decreased to 7.4% from 7.7%.

The state’s seven health districts reported a combined 416 new confirmed cases and four new deaths on Thursday. With 90 additional probable cases, there were 506 new cases added Thursday, which is the most for the state since Aug. 14. The state’s seven-day moving average increased to 368.9 cases per day. It was at 268.3 one week ago.

The latest deaths were in Adams (1 new, 2 total), Canyon (1 new, 101 total), Jefferson (1 new, 2 total) and Twin Falls (1 new, 36 total) counties. The Jefferson County death was a female in her 50s, according to Eastern Idaho Public Health. Updated demographics from Health and Welfare indicate the other three deaths included an individual in their 70s and two individuals 80 or older.

Idaho has lost 458 residents to the virus with a case fatality rate of about 1.16%.

The board of health for EIPH on Thursday lifted the order requiring face coverings in public places in Custer County. The order was rescinded because the county’s COVID-19 daily incidence rate fell below the threshold of 15 cases per 10,000 people for the most recent seven-day period.

Eleven counties reported 10 or more new confirmed cases: Ada (52 new, 11,506 total), Canyon (51 new, 7,564 total), Twin Falls (48 new, 1,930 total), Kootenai (44 new, 2,560 total), Latah (31 new, 362 total), Bonneville (25 new, 2,117 total), Bannock (22 new, 940 total), Madison (18 new, 487 total), Bingham (16 new, 864 total), Cassia (14 new, 603 total) and Jerome (10 new, 654 total).

The other counties adding new confirmed cases Thursday were Benewah (2 new, 141 total), Blaine (2 new, 615 total), Boise (1 new, 53 total), Bonner (4 new, 293 total), Butte (1 new, 28 total), Camas (2 new, 22 total), Caribou (4 new, 95 total), Custer (3 new, 51 total), Elmore (2 new, 263 total), Franklin (3 new, 102 total), Fremont (2 new, 158 total), Gem (4 new, 268 total), Gooding (1 new, 230 total), Idaho (3 new, 186 total), Jefferson (9 new, 435 total), Lemhi (1 new, 65 total), Minidoka (9 new, 603 total), Nez Perce (9 new, 399 total), Owyhee (2 new, 296 total), Payette (5 new, 748 total), Power (1 new, 221 total), Teton (7 new, 144 total), Valley (1 new, 83 total) and Washington (7 new, 329 total).

Since the start of the pandemic, 35,915 Idahoans have tested positive for the coronavirus. Health and Welfare reported 3,470 “probable” cases (90 new). IDHW estimates that of those infected, 21,105 people are presumed recovered.


In its weekly review of health alert levels for the six counties it serves, Southwest District Health shared information regarding COVID-19 in area schools.

The district said it does not release information on school-specific cases, but would provide a county-level summary. Isolation cases represent individuals who are currently positive for the virus. Quarantine cases are individuals who have been in contact with a positive case and are asked to stay home for 14 days to monitor for symptoms.

Adams County: None (Gray health alert level)

Canyon County: 11 students and staff in isolation; 107 students and staff in quarantine (orange)

Gem County: 1 staff member in isolation (yellow)

Owyhee County: 4 students and staff in isolation; 200 students and staff in quarantine (yellow)

Payette County: 5 students and staff in isolation; 13 students and staff in quarantine (red)

Washington County: 3 students and staff in quarantine (yellow)

According to a SWDH spokesperson: “The 200 students and staff in quarantine in Owyhee County are linked to an indoor recess that occurred due to poor air quality.” The quarantine is scheduled to end Sept. 30.



During a meeting Wednesday, the Middleton School District’s Board of Trustees announced that a staff member had died from COVID-19. Board members did not detail who the staff member was or any further information.

The deceased did not have contact with the students, according to the district.

On Thursday afternoon, Southwest District Health issued a statement saying the death certificate could take “several weeks” to complete, which will delay its reporting into the district’s coronavirus data.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the Middleton School District employee during this difficult time. The employee contracted COVID-19 prior to the beginning of in-person learning within the school district and was not present in the school facilities while students were also on campus,” SWDH Director Nikki Zogg said in a news release.


Overall hospitalizations: Health and Welfare reports that there have been 1,766 hospitalizations of people with COVID-19, 449 admissions to the ICU and 2,670 health care workers infected. Hospital and health care numbers are based on cases with completed investigations into contacts, not the full number of positives.

St. Luke’s Health System: As of Sept. 23, the health system was reporting 23 patients in its hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 out of 445 patients overall. The health system reported a 14-day coronavirus test positivity rate of 6%.

Saint Alphonsus Health System: As of Sept. 23, the health system was reporting 25 patients in its hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 out of 379 patients overall. The health system reported a 14-day coronavirus test positivity rate of 8.3%.

Boise School District: The district says the following schools or units have reported confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff since Sept. 22: Borah High School (2 cases), Boise Online school (1), Hawthorne Elementary (1) and Hillside Junior High (1).

Testing totals: At the end of the day Thursday, Health and Welfare reported that 296,412 people had been tested statewide. About 12.1% of those have been positive for COVID-19.

Counties with community spread: All counties except Adams, Butte and Franklin have been announced to have community spread.

Counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases: Ada 11,506, Adams 27, Bannock 940, Bear Lake 46, Benewah 141, Bingham 864, Blaine 615, Boise 53, Bonner 293, Bonneville 2,117, Boundary 47, Butte 28, Camas 22, Canyon 7,564, Caribou 95, Cassia 603, Clark 27, Clearwater 37, Custer 51, Elmore 263, Franklin 102, Fremont 158, Gem 268, Gooding 230, Idaho 186, Jefferson 435, Jerome 654, Kootenai 2,560, Latah 362, Lemhi 65, Lewis 13, Lincoln 69, Madison 487, Minidoka 603, Nez Perce 399, Oneida 21, Owyhee 296, Payette 748, Power 221, Shoshone 213, Teton 144, Twin Falls 1,930, Valley 83, Washington 329.