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COVID-19 case surges overwhelm Public Health

LEWISTON -- Public Health-Idaho North Central District (PH-INCD) warns case surges in the last month have created backlogs and delays for their disease investigation teams, making it impossible to contact all new reported cases or those individual's close contacts.

Disease investigation remains a top priority for Public Health. However, as cases have flooded into the State, tripling daily averages in some districts, public health districts are asking for the community's help.

"We are facing significantly increased levels of community transmission, we need the community's help to reduce the numbers," said Carol Moehrle, PH-INCD director. "We are doing our best to keep up with the demand, including working overtime, but with the drastic increase in positive cases in such a short time, we need the help of the public to slow the spread."

With the latest surge in cases, some health districts, including PH-INCD, have been forced to prioritize investigative calls by age, to ensure they are reaching the people most at risk for severe symptoms and those most likely to spread the disease.

"Ideally all cases will be investigated, all contacts will be listed, and then all contacts will be quarantined and monitored for 14 days after last exposure to a potentially infectious person. As case counts have increased, it has become necessary to prioritize. PH-NCD would be one of the many Idaho health districts that have identified that they are experiencing more cases than can be investigated daily," according to Tara Macke, PH-INCD.

"All Districts have been encouraged to prioritize investigations to focus on groups that are at the highest risk for severe complications of COVID-19 (seniors and medically fragile), and for groups that would be most likely to spread the illness to others because of their association to large groups (for example; schools, first responders and law enforcement) or exposure to high risk groups (health care workers). The guidance from the State was very general to allow application as needed, and has room for variability to allow for differing degrees of need of prioritization," Macke continued.

Because of the backlog, a growing number of people are not getting a prompt call from their office. They urge anyone who is awaiting test results or who receives a positive test result to take their own proactive measures to protect themselves and those around them.

Anyone awaiting a test result should:

  • Stay home and monitory health -- stay away from others in the household whenever possible. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
  • Think about the people one has recently been around and in what environments.
  • Answer the phone call from the health department if they are able to reach out.

Anyone testing positive should:

  • Stay home for at least 10 days from the start of symptoms or 10 days from or the test date if there have been on symptoms, except to get medical care. Do Not visit public places.
  • Take care to get rest and stay hydrated.
  • Stay in touch with healthcare providers -- Do not hesitate to seek care in an emergency, but call ahead or notify EMS of the diagnosis.
  • Contact those with whom there has been close contact to let them know they have been exposed to COVID-19.

Anyone who has potentially been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should follow the guidance in this link: https://idahopublichealth.com/district2/coronavirus/2020-10-27-What-should-I-do-if-I-have-been-exposed.pdf

PH-INCD thanks everyone for their patience at this time.

For more information about the novel coronavirus, please visit www.idahopublichealth.com or https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/ or call the Public Health Hotline at 1-866-736-6632.

Window on the Clearwater
P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544
Phone: (208) 476-0733
Fax: (208) 476-4140