How COVID-19 cases are counted

Niki Forbing-Orr

Local public health districts may be announcing cases of COVID-19 that are not reflected in the state’s numbers at 

The state case counts are based on records submitted to the state by the local public health districts through Idaho’s statewide disease tracking system. The state does not count cases of disease the local public health districts have not yet determined to be confirmed though investigations and submitted to the state. This is standard practice for all communicable diseases and done, in part, to ensure we count cases only among Idaho residents. The state of residence may not be immediately clear, for example, if someone who is a resident of another state becomes sick in Idaho and gets tested in Idaho.

This is a nationwide practice for assigning cases that has been agreed upon by all 50 states and U.S. territories since 2003 to ensure accurate state and national case counts. When a disease is diagnosed in an out of state resident, state-level epidemiologists contact the person’s state of residence to ensure they know about the case and collaborate on the investigation since it is possible that people in both states may have been exposed. 

The local public health districts may be announcing cases of COVID-19 among people who were tested in their communities before they have been submitted to the state as a confirmed case out of an abundance of caution and to communicate that people in Idaho might have been exposed. 

If you have questions about cases in a specific public health district, please refer to that health district.