COVID-19 Q&A: Are things getting worse in Idaho? Yes, they are.

June 7, 2022
Dr. Kathryn Turner, deputy state epidemiologist in the Division of Public Health

COVID-19 trends in Idaho are heading in the wrong direction. We’re hearing about more infections, and 9 percent of COVID-19 test results are positive (up from 7.6 percent the week before). In addition, hospitalizations also are ticking up. The good news is that hospitalization increases are small, and the number of deaths is not rising, likely due to some population immunity from circulating strains.

After the Memorial Day holiday and recent graduations — when many people gather with friends and family -- we’re watching to see if these trends continue. If Idaho follows the trends east coast states have experienced , we may see our rates level off in a few weeks, but a lot depends on new variants of the virus that emerge and whether people will avoid behaving in ways that can result in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

We’d like to remind Idahoans that we have tools that work to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The vaccines work well to keep most people out of the hospital. We can choose to wear masks in crowded places or when we can’t keep our distance from others. We have more immunity as a population, and we also have more treatment options and an understanding about the virus that we didn’t have when the pandemic began.

It may be difficult to assess your own risk as you eye COVID-19 trends. Here’s some information that might help. 

What precautions should I take?

Getting vaccinated and boosted if you’re eligible still offers the best protection against serious illness, even if you’ve had COVID-19. Try to gather outdoors with friends and family this summer, and if you’re indoors open doors and windows to keep air flowing. Consider wearing masks indoors when it's crowded or if you can't spread out, especially if you are around people at higher risk for severe disease. Using at-home tests is an easy and convenient way to make sure you don’t unknowingly spread the virus.

Most importantly, if you’re sick, stay home and call your medical provider.

Do masks work?

High-quality masks work best to protect both people who wear them and the people around them who don’t. These masks keep you from spitting germs on others, and they keep others’ germs from getting in your mouth and nose and making you sick. The more people who wear them the better, but high-quality masks still work if you’re the only person in a crowded room wearing one.

Some masks do not work as well as others. Loosely woven cloth masks are the least likely to protect you. Finely woven layered masks work better, and well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection than woven cloth masks. Well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators, including N95s, offer the highest level of protection.

Any mask you wear should fit closely on the face without any gaps along the edges or around your nose and be comfortable enough when worn over your nose and mouth that you can keep it on when you need to. 

More details about masks: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html

When should I get tested?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should get tested right away.

If you’ve had close contact with someone who had COVID-19, you should get tested at least five days after you were with them even if you don’t develop symptoms.

If you’re planning to attend a party or crowded event, think about getting tested as close to the event date as possible.

If you’re traveling, you can learn more about the requirements on the travel page on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

If you have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and recovered, you do not need to be tested unless you develop new symptoms.

Dr. Kathryn Turner is the deputy state epidemiologist in the Division of Public Health. She has worked for the department for 17 years and oversees the epidemiology, immunization, food protection, communicable disease surveillance, and refugee health screening programs for the division. She has been focused almost entirely on Idaho’s pandemic response since February 2020.

COVID-19 resources:

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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.