"R-Naught" rate helps track spread of COVID-19

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Posted at 4:41 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 19:54:08-04

IDAHO — A tool used in public health called "R-Naught" or R0 helps officials predict how quickly a disease can spread. This number helps calculate how many people you will spread the virus to if you are sick.

The "R-Naught" number can change all of the time. Idaho's number has been changing since the start of the pandemic.

According to the state Epidemiologist, Christine Hahn, Idaho's current "R-Naught" is about 1.23.

Public health is continuously trying to lower this number, below one, to slow the spread of the virus.

"If there's ten of us sick and one of us gets one person sick and the rest of us don't get anyone sick, the disease will die out," Hahn says.

The Coronavirus has an average "R-Naught" rate somewhere between 2 and 3, which means if you contract the virus, it would be expected that you would pass it on to at least two or more people.

"Those two people you infect, and each of them infect two more. You can see how this just logarithmically takes off," former CEO of St. Lukes Health System, David Pate says.

Officials were unable to comment on Ada County's number specifically.

"Hopefully, now that they are aware of the increase, they are talking to people, and they are hopefully getting people to stay home. Hopefully, they are pushing that right back down and trying to stop that spread," Hahn says.

Although a 1.23 rate does not sound bad, it causes a quicker spread of the virus and can lead to hospitals becoming overrun.