Idaho’s first coronavirus case confirmed in Ada County

A woman in her 50s, who state health officials believe contracted the virus after attending a conference in New York City, became the first person to test positive for coronavirus in Idaho, Gov. Brad Little announced Friday afternoon.

The woman, whose identity was withheld, is self-isolating at her Ada County home.

The patient tested positive Friday after clinical specimens where sent to the Idaho Bureau of Public Health laboratories, said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator of the Division of Public Health at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

“Fortunately, this individual is doing well,” Shaw-Tulloch said. “They are at home, they are recovering from mild symptoms that did not require hospitalization.”

State officials did not or could not name the conference she attended, held in late February or early March. Coordinators of the New York conference alerted the Idaho woman after three other conference attendees tested positive for coronavirus, Shaw-Tulloch said.

The Idaho woman flew home through the Boise Airport, but was not displaying symptoms when she flew, officials said.

When asked by reporters, state officials said the Idaho woman who tested positive is cooperating with an investigation into her travel history and close contact she may have had with other people. She did not visit the Statehouse or any public schools, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials said.

“The message that we would share is this is not something that is a widespread risk to everyone that’s in our population,” said Brandon Atkins, a program manager in the Central District Health Department. “We knew at some point that this would happen and the preventative measures that are in place are very sound and solid.”

During a late afternoon news conference, Little said the state’s first positive test would not cause him to change his decision not to close schools, as governors in Oregon and other states have.

“No, because of the kind of case it was,” Little said.

Little and state Health and Welfare officials stressed that Idahoans should continue to focus on helping slow the spread of the virus.

They stressed the importance of four measures:

  • Washing your hands regularly.
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes.
  • Staying home if you are sick.
  • Staying away from others who are sick.

“We realize this is a very scary notification but we do want to have everyone understand the risk to the population still remains low,” Shaw-Tulloch said. “This is someone who was traveling into our state. We know the cause of that was not from community spread in Idaho.”

It was Little’s second coronavirus-related news conference of the day. Seven hours earlier, Little issued a declaration of emergency, as part of an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We have been preparing for this since January when the first confirmed case of coronavirus was confirmed in the United States,” Little said in a written statement late Friday afternoon. “We have taken many proactive steps, and we are in a good position to respond. Our focus is on slowing the spread of coronavirus to protect vulnerable individuals and preserve capacity in our healthcare facilities.”

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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