Madison County: A closer look at a coronavirus hotspot

For most of the summer, the coronavirus outbreak seemed to skirt by Madison County.

Now, the eastern Idaho county is one of the state’s coronavirus hotspots. As of Monday, Madison County is reporting 508 confirmed or probable coronavirus cases — a number that has doubled since Sept. 1.

In Saturday’s Post Register, reporter Kyle Pfannensteil looks at what might and might not account for the recent spike in cases.

The rising case numbers are skewing younger, he reports: 21 percent of the county’s cases involve minors, up from 12.8 percent before September.

The Madison School District opened in late August for face-to-face K-12 classes, with no mask requirements. And even though the Eastern Idaho Public Health department board passed a mask mandate for Madison County last week, the district isn’t planning on kicking students out if they don’t comply.

“What we believe in is informing and educating. We want kids in school, and so we want to encourage them,” assistant superintendent Randy Lords told Pfannensteil.

One unlikely cause of the spike in cases is Brigham Young University-Idaho, the state’s largest private college. BYU-Idaho is reporting 21 active coronavirus cases, 11 involving students and 10 involving employees.

“If we don’t explode, it’ll be a testament to BYU-Idaho,” Brent Mendenhall, Madison County’s representative on Eastern Idaho Public Health’s board, told Pfannensteil. “That they are getting to their students and saying: ‘Listen, even out in public, down in town as the old movies would say. If you go down in town, be aware, it’s not just a campus thing.’ If we can hold back, I think we can show we can control it.”

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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