IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — This article was originally published by Brittni Johnson of East Idaho News.
New restrictions are in place in several eastern Idaho counties due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Eastern Idaho Public Health announced during a special meeting Monday evening that Jefferson and Fremont counties would be moving from the minimal risk level to the moderate risk level for the first time, as part of the district’s COVID-19 Regional Response Plan.
Health officials also decided Teton County, which has been in the moderate risk level since July 16, will remain there. Last week, it had been announced that Teton might move back down to the minimal level, however, a weekend spike changed that.
Bonneville County also remains well above the moderate risk level threshold.
“We want all these counties to be back down in the green (minimal risk level) but the only way for us to do that is to get the numbers back down,” EIPH board chairman Bryon Reed said. “We’re trying to do everything possible to do that.”
As part of the order, public gatherings are limited to a maximum occupancy that provides for each person to have a 3-foot radius around them. Wearing face masks in public is also mandatory, unless you are actively engaged in a sporting competition, training, or practice that involves strenuous physical activity.
“The purpose of the face coverings is to prevent a person from spreading (COVID-19) to another person. With COVID-19, a person can be infectious for up to two days before they show symptoms,” EIPH Director Geri Rackow explained. “The face coverings help prevent that spread.”
The mask does not prevent the wearer from contracting the virus, Rackow emphasized.
The orders are effective immediately.
The decisions made by the EIPH board were prompted by all three counties staying above a risk threshold for three consecutive days. As of Monday evening, Jefferson has 43 active cases (the threshold is 30 active cases), Fremont has 21 active cases (the threshold is 13), and Teton has 15 active cases (the threshold is 12). The active case thresholds are based on county populations.
During the meeting, EIPH Community Health Division Director James Corbett explained why communities are seeing exponential growth rates.
“One person doesn’t just give it to one person and it’s not a linear growth in that matter. It’s one person gives it to 2.5 (people) and those 2.5 give it to 2.5 of their own,” Corbett said during the meeting.
Corbett said it’s up to each and every person to do their part to help stop the number of COVID-19 cases from rising.
“It’s difficult to know exactly how quickly those will drop because of the compliance rates of the different strategies,” Corbett said. “We want individuals to exercise their rights … but we’re also concerned those decisions then play into … exponential spread of the disease.”
Copies of all the orders are available on Eastern Idaho Public Health’s website. Risk levels are reevaluated every 14 days.