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Idaho’s coronavirus test positivity rate shows decline for fourth week in a row


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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Idaho recorded a COVID-19 test positivity rate below 10% for the second consecutive week and saw a decrease in positivity for the fourth week in a row.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Thursday a positivity rate of 8.3% on 18,231 tests conducted Aug. 16-22, although more test results are likely to be added in the coming weeks. That follows a rate of 9.2% on 21,709 tests for Aug. 9-15. The last time the Gem State was below 10% for back-to-back weeks was in June.

The state’s seven health districts added a combined 301 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and seven deaths Thursday. Idaho has lost 344 residents to the virus with a case fatality rate of about 1.1%.

Eastern Idaho Public Health confirmed the eighth and ninth deaths from COVID-19 in Bonneville County. The individuals were both females in their 70s, according to an EIPH press release. IDHW announced the eighth death in Bonneville County on Tuesday.

“We are saddened by the death of these individuals and would like to express our condolences to their family and friends during this difficult time,” said EIPH Director Geri Rackow in a statement. “We know they will be missed by all those who loved them.”

A male in his 80s became the sixth resident in Bingham County to die from the virus, according to Southeastern Idaho Public Health. The remaining deaths were reported in Ada (2 new, 118 total), Canyon (2 new, 73 total) and Owyhee (1 new, 5 total) counties, but no details were provided.

According to updated demographics on the IDHW website for six of the latest deaths, two individuals were in their 70s and four were 80 or older. Four were female and two were male.

The largest increases in confirmed case numbers Thursday occurred in Ada (52 new, 10,216 total), Canyon (38 new, 6,606 total), Bonneville (34 new, 1,368 total), Kootenai (29 new, 2,133 total), Bannock (21 new, 608 total), Bingham (20 new, 437 total), Payette (17 new, 544 total), Twin Falls (15 new, 1,475 total) and Jerome (10 new, 526 total) counties.

The other counties reporting new confirmed cases were Blaine (1 new, 582 total), Boise (2 new, 48 total), Butte (6 new, 17 total), Camas (1 new, 3 total), Caribou (3 new, 38 total), Cassia (2 new, 524 total), Custer (9 new, 26 total), Fremont (4 new, 95 total), Gem (1 new, 185 total), Jefferson (3 new, 282 total), Latah (5 new, 214 total), Madison (6 new, 187 total), Minidoka (8 new, 512 total), Nez Perce (4 new, 251 total), Oneida (1 new, 18 total), Owyhee (2 new, 268 total), Power (3 new, 116 total), Shoshone (3 new, 193 total), Teton (1 new, 105 total) and Valley (1 new, 77 total).

Idaho North Central District removed one case from Clearwater County, lowering its total to 19 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, Fremont County has met the metric to return to the “minimal risk” or “green level,” according to the EIPH Board of Health, which means the order requiring face coverings in public has been rescinded. The county was able to get its active case rate below the threshold of 10 per 10,000 population for the most recent seven-day period. Mandatory face coverings are still in effect for Bonneville, Clark, Jefferson, Lemhi and Teton counties, according to EIPH.

EIPH said that if Clark and Lemhi counties continue their downward trend in cases, their orders are expected to be rescinded on Aug. 31.

The Butte County Commissioners voted to move their COVID-19 risk level from minimal to high, based on metrics provided by Southeastern Idaho Public Health. Those metrics included active case rate, number of new cases and the impact the virus is having on the health care system. The decision will be reviewed in two weeks, SIPH said.

The recommendations for the high-risk category include face coverings in public, gatherings limited to less than 50 people and the closure of congregate living facilities to visitors. Butte County reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus on Aug. 11 and now has 17 cases.

“We support Butte County’s decision to act rapidly, based upon data, to enact measures intended to protect the health of their community,” said Maggie Mann, Southeastern Idaho Public Health District Director.

“No matter the risk category, we urge all residents to take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes practicing physical distancing of at least 6 feet, wearing a mask when interacting with others outside your household, washing hands frequently, sanitizing commonly touched surfaces regularly, and isolating immediately if you begin showing symptoms of any virus.”

Since the start of the pandemic, 28,957 Idaho residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Officials report that 13,928 people have recovered from the disease. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare also reported 57 new “probable” cases, bringing the state total to 2,281.