Southwest District Health Officials opted to keep only two counties in a “red” health alert level as it pertains to its color-coded chart determining the risk of community spread of COVID-19. This decision was made during a determination meeting on Tuesday. Due to a high daily incident rate of positive COVID cases, Payette and Canyon counties will remain in the category indicative of continued high risk of community spread, however Washington County has been downgraded to “orange,” indicating the risk level as medium.
Concern over cluster outbreaks in Payette County
The “red” alert level indicates a high risk of community spread due to an average of more than 5 daily new cases per 10,000 people in the past seven days. Among factors health officials considered in keeping Payette County in this highest-risk category were Payette’s current daily incidence rate of 6.173 daily new cases, which is continuing to increase, according to information from Katrina Williams, public information officer for SWDH. Nearly half, or 48.59%, of confirmed cases know where they were exposed to the virus, pointing to “sustained community spread.”
Concern over cluster outbreaks from such places as local workplace settings, after school extra-curricular activities and non-essential gatherings, was also cited over cause for keeping the county in a high alert level. As of Tuesday, Williams said a SWDH epidemiologist program manager said was only one individual who tested positive has so far confirmed attendance at the Payette County Fair and Rodeo Aug. 5-8. This in no ways means the origin of every positive case is known, however, as more than 51% of confirmed cases have unknown origins. The unknowns could be for myriad reasons, according to health authorities across the nation, who say not every person who has it is symptomatic, some who are don’t report their symptoms or get tested, and some don’t return or answer calls from contact tracers.
“The data analyst also noted that many school boards and decision makers are taking rapid responsive action to mitigate risk of COVID-19 to staff and students,” Williams said.
Daily case rate on downward trend in Washington County
There were many factors considered in downgrading the health alert level from “red” to “orange” for Washington County. The top among these is the decreasing rate of positive COVID cases with the daily incident rate at 2.531 daily cases, “which is trending down.” according to Williams. However, only 50.64% of cases report knowing where they were exposed, indicating sustained community spread.
While there has been a decrease in non-essential gatherings which has resulted in cluster outbreaks, epidemiologists have expressed concern over cluster outbreaks in congregate living facilities and essential gatherings.
Canyon county faces shortages in health care
Authorities opted to keep Canyon County in the top alert level due to several factors, including a high daily incidence rate of 2.576, which is trending down, Williams noted.
However, it is the scene surrounding cluster outbreaks, health care and congregate living in Canyon County that have health officials most concerned.
When it comes to health care, there have been severe staff shortages, with “52 health-care workers testing positive for COVID-19 during the date range analyzed,” being a primary concern to epidemiologists and health-care officials
In addition, 14 congregate living facilities are seeing cluster outbreaks.”