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COVID trends promising, but Idaho stays in Stage Four

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | August 21, 2020 1:55 PM

Gov. Brad Little praised the efforts of Idahoans in turning around the now-shrinking coronavirus metrics, but he declared Friday the state will remain in Stage Four of his Idaho Rebounds plan.

“Idaho will remain in Stage Four for another two weeks because the number of hospital admissions of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients is higher than we’d like across the state,” the governor said.

While Idaho hospitalizations peaked Aug. 3 with 242 patients, those numbers had declined to 167 on Saturday. But then the numbers climbed back up, reaching 205 this week.

But Little said he’s pleased at other metrics that have marked improvement in the fight against COVID-19.

“Over the past two weeks, metrics have improved in other areas,” he said. “We’re seeing downward trends in overall confirmed cases, test positivity rates and emergency department visits in patients with COVID-like illnesses. We have sufficient ventilators, ICU beds and hospital (personal protective equipment) statewide, and the number of people admitted to hospitals is stabilizing.”

Little has kept the state in Stage Four since June 13. Originally scheduled to lift June 19, the postponement means Idaho will stay in the final stage into at least early September, marking a total of 12 weeks. The state has failed to meet all the criteria to exit the final stage of his Idaho Rebounds plan and see a loosening of health protocols and restrictions in public.

Idaho’s test positivity rate in August has been substantially less than in the past. Of the more than 41,000 tests administered statewide over the past two weeks, 10.2 percent have tested positive. This fraction is down dramatically from the first two weeks of July, when the positive test rate hovered around 15 percent.

While the number of Idaho’s total cases is staggering in comparison to when Little first issued his stay-home order — 150 on March 25, compared to 29,120 on Thursday — COVID-19-related emergency room visits have plummeted. Tuesday’s seven emergency room visits statewide tie for Idaho’s second-lowest single-day mark since the pandemic began.

Thursday’s 424 new cases statewide are part of a longer trend of declining new cases. Two weeks prior, that number was 481; since then, the number of new cases has declined with relative consistency.

Little made the announcement at the Idaho Foodbank in Boise, where he said the state just approved $2.5 million in food bank relief.

“Many Idahoans have experienced job loss or loss of income since the spring,” he said, “making it harder to afford the most basic of human needs: food. As a result, more and more Idaho families are turning to their local food banks and local food assistance programs during the coronavirus.”

Little tied the funding to Idaho’s education, connecting the fact that half of all Idaho food banks are schools.

“For a child, hunger makes it hard to focus and hard to learn,” Little said. “Hunger affects a child’s emotions and overall health, and inhibits their ability to achieve their full potential.”