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Little details goals to expand COVID-19 testing in Idaho

| May 22, 2020 1:34 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Ramping up COVID-19 testing and tracing is key to Idaho’s containment strategy, Gov. Brad Little said Friday, as authorities said they hope be consistently testing 2% of the state’s population in the coming months.

“The whole goal of this is to scale up testing with tracing where we can do what Idaho likes to do in a good fire season, and that is get on those fires early and put them out,” Little said at a news conference where a task force released recommendations for expanding testing in the state.

Among the goals:

• Expanding testing across all populations, including symptomatic and asymptomatic people. Priority would be given to people like health care workers and nursing home residents.

• Increasing spending on local testing capacity.

• Limited use of antibody testing to determine who had been exposed to COVID-19.

The state has in the past weeks struggled to increase testing.

Elke Shaw-Telloch, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare administrator for public health, said federal officials recommend testing 2% of the population each month. She said Idaho has been sent 40,000 swabs and other testing materials for May, and it expects the same amount in June.

Shaw-Telloch said the state public health lab can run 200 COVID-19 tests a day, while the Veterans Administration can accommodate non VA-patient testing for urgent cases. And she said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has helped deploy point-of-care testing units in Idaho to every health district in the state.

“This will help, but more testing needs to be in order,” she said.

Idaho has had more than 2,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 77 deaths. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.