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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Mandatory Mask Order Could Be Coming To Ada, Valley Counties

Courtesy of St. Luke's Health System

Idaho’s largest hospitals say they’re admitting more and more people with cases of COVID-19 as the community has failed to stem the spread of the disease in recent weeks.

As of Tuesday, 51 people are hospitalized at St. Luke’s Health System after contracting the coronavirus – more than record highs set over the past three months. Fourteen are in the intensive care unit.  St. Alphonsus Health System has also seen a surge, with 27 people admitted, with six in the ICU.

Both health systems relayed that update to Central District Health board members Tuesday.

Many people have been reluctant to socially distance themselves from others or wear masks in public. As a result, St. Luke’s CEO Chris Roth said his projections expect cases to continue climbing week after week.

“There’s nothing that we’ve been able to determine is going to change the trajectory at this point given the collective behaviors of the community, I’ll put it that way,” Roth said.

A month ago, much of Idaho’s most recent spike in positive cases of COVID-19 were found in young people between the ages of 20-30. But over the past two weeks, St. Luke’s has seen a four-fold increase in the 40-59 age bracket and a five-fold increase in those over 60.

James Souza, the chief medical officer and a pulmonary specialist at St. Luke’s, put it bluntly: “Get ready. We’re going to be seeing increasing hospital activity.”

“We’ve got to be ahead of this issue,” said St. Al’s CEO Odette Bolano. “We just can’t wait. We’re not going to get one patient at a time. We’re getting four or five at a time.”

Bolano said the system’s positive test rate has been 15% or more recently.

Tuesday set a new single-day record high for positive cases in Idaho, with 448 confirmed, according to state officials. 94 people have died since March 13 – all of them more than 50 years old.

Shortly after both hospitals gave updates on their situations to board members at Central District Health, it voted to extend restrictions in Ada County ordering bars and nightclubs to remain closed. Gatherings of more than 50 people are also banned.

State Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) was the lone no vote.

Board members also directed staff to draft a mandatory mask policy for Ada County and possibly Valley County.

“Wearing face coverings might not exactly be comfortable, but it’s not going back to Stage 2 or Stage 1 or stay-at-home orders,” said Central District Health Director Russell Duke.

The board will consider the proposal next week.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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