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Panhandle Health moves Kootenai County to "Orange"

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | October 16, 2020 1:00 AM

Citing an increase in COVID-19 percent positivity and incident rates, Panhandle Health District moved Kootenai County Thursday from its minimal “Yellow” risk category to its moderate “Orange” Moderate risk category.

The week’s uptick in countywide hospitalizations — including 62 new cases Thursday, bringing PHD's total to more than 4,100 — were just a few factors that went into the decision. When asked through Facebook, Panhandle Health — which updates county statuses every Thursday — said those are fragments of a much larger equation to raise the county’s profile.

“Hospitalizations is just one of the key metrics we take into consideration when deciding the county risk levels,” the district wrote. “We also look at the seven-day incidence rate of cases in each county, and the percent positivity. In Kootenai County, we have seen an increase in both positivity and the incidence rate.”

The past week’s 307 cases were a sharp increase from the previous seven days’ 173 cases.

PHD's coronavirus positivity rate for 3,459 PCR tests for the week of Oct. 4 to Oct. 10 was 7.7%, up from 6.6% the previous week based on 3,215 tests. It was down from 8% for the week ending Sept. 19.

While “Orange” doesn’t deliver any further restrictions beyond the already-implemented mask mandate, Panhandle Health does recommend residents re-consider gatherings of more than 50 people, recommend vulnerable populations to self-isolate, discourage travel and encourage tele-working.

The move did spark the possibility of other ramifications. At 4:30 Thursday afternoon, Scott Mabin, director of communications for the Coeur d’Alene School District, sent an email to families that said changes might be coming to schools as a result.

He wrote that the district's trustees will meet on Monday to discuss making a similar change.

The last time Coeur d’Alene public schools operated under their own Orange conditions was Oct. 2, when blended learning required students attend in-person class two days a week. Should the school district make a similar decision Monday, schools would remain with a five-day in-person schedule through Friday, Oct. 23.