Coronavirus: Amid another case record, Central District Health discusses outbreak

For the third time in a week, Idaho is reporting a one-day peak in new coronavirus cases.

The state reported 487 new, confirmed and probable coronavirus cases Tuesday. The previous one-day peak, 401 confirmed and probable cases, was reported Friday.

Tuesday’s numbers illustrate a sharp ­— and ongoing — increase in coronavirus cases across the state. But Tuesday’s uptick can be explained, at least in part, by some delays in tallying cases.

On Monday night, the Department of Health and Welfare reported an even 3,000 confirmed and probable cases in Ada County — the epicenter of Idaho’s coronavirus outbreak. But on Monday night, the Central District Health department reported a significantly higher number of cases in Ada County: 3,073.

On Tuesday, Health and Welfare’s reports appeared to include most or all of these cases logged by Central District Health — significantly contributing to the increase of 487 cases.

Idaho Education News tracks confirmed and probable coronavirus case numbers from the state and the health districts — and numbers from the health districts tend to be higher. Based on these counts, Idaho has 8,630 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases, up 425 cases from Monday. In all, 94 Idahoans have died from coronavirus, a number unchanged from Monday. (Check our coronavirus topic page for the updated map.)

On Tuesday, the state has reported a total of 396 coronavirus-related hospitalizations, up from 387 Monday.

As the new numbers came out late Tuesday afternoon, Central District Health board members heard a sobering update from administrators from the Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s hospital systems. Both hospitals are reporting significant increases in hospitalizations. (Details from Don Day at BoiseDev.com.)

The demographics of the Treasure Valley’s coronavirus uptick also appear to be changing. Where the virus once was spreading rapidly among younger adults, the outbreak is now affecting middle-aged or older patients — who might be more likely to need hospitalization.

The board again put Ada County on stage three of Idaho’s four-step reopening plan — which prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people and continues a shutdown of bars in the county. It was the third time the board has voted on the Ada County restrictions; the previous votes were voided due to open meetings violations.

Tuesday’s vote was not unanimous. Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, the board’s Elmore County representative, opposed the Ada County restrictions.

Despite the continued increase in cases, Central District Health Director Russell Duke offered a glimmer of hope. After two weeks of restrictions — which have remained in place, despite the board’s open meetings violations — Ada County’s new case numbers appear to be dropping slightly.

And St. Luke’s chief medical officer James Souza held out hope for reopening schools in the fall. Compared to high-density venues such as bars, schools pose a relatively small risk. However, he said, school officials need to be planning now — looking at ventilation in classrooms, coming up with social distancing plans and considering mask requirements.

“It’s about proximity and the air that we share,” Souza said.

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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