COVID-19 spread is uneven countywide

The COVID-19 Daily Incidence Rate tool on the Southwest District Health website, as retrieved on Aug. 31. The tool, which offers a color-coded snapshot of virus spread, can be found at phd3.idaho.gov.

PAYETTE COUNTY — While COVID-19 remains a worldwide threat, local statistics show that it doesn’t attack all communities equally. According to the COVID-19 dashboard on Southwest District Health’s website, the virus is spreading quickly in Fruitland and Payette, but not so quickly in New Plymouth. Nonetheless, Payette County remains under a ‘red’ health alert, meaning communities have reached a tipping point for uncontrolled spread. 

The seven-day moving average daily incident rate per 10,000 people, by Zip code, is as follows as of Sept. 1.

• Payette: 11.42 

• Fruitland: 9.12

• New Plymouth: 2.59

In an email on Aug. 27, Public Information Officer Katrina Williams said that despite the rates of spread in Payette County, no mandatory measures are being put in place.

“At this time Southwest District Health’s Board of Health members do not support implementing mandates, closing businesses, or returning to earlier stages of the COVID-19 reopening plan,” wrote Williams. “Southwest District Health does recommend residents follow the guidance provided based on the current Health Alert Level where they live, work, and play. The guidance is based on the most current scientific evidence and includes personal and community-based strategies known to decrease the spread of COVID-19.”

Williams said this standpoint also includes the use of face masks, but that the Board still advises it.

“Businesses across the district have been responsive to [the agency’s] current recommendations by adopting practices that allow for physical distancing and requiring masks for their staff and patrons. In addition, many people who live, work, and play in southwest Idaho are wearing a face covering to protect themselves and others despite not being mandated to do so. Southwest District Health recommends that individuals wear a face covering that completely covers the person’s nose and mouth when the person is in a public area where physical distancing of at least six (6) feet between non-household members is not possible.”

Williams could not explain why New Plymouth’s rate of spread remains low, saying no information was available.

Even with the rate of spread remaining high in Payette County, the rate of positive tests within the agency’s boundaries is showing a downward trend. Out of 202 tests collected on Aug. 22, the most recent date for which data is available, the agency recorded only a 2.59% positivity rate. The highest positivity rate the agency recorded was July 15, when the agency showed a 25% positivity rate out of 1,242 tests.

Under a ‘red’ health alert, the agency recommends businesses and residents take these measures:

• Use face coverings

• Limit events to one person per 64 square feet of space

• Work remotely when available

• Vulnerable populations are urged to limit participation in high risk activities such as contact sports, attending events like concerts or other public entertainment events

• Limited visitation to long-term care or correctional facilities

Canyon and Washington counties are also under ‘red’ health alerts. Gem and Owyhee Counties are under ‘orange’ and Adams County is under ‘gray.’

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