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Idaho will scale back some COVID data reporting as trends improve

A map of counties in Idaho is shaded green, yellow and orange to indicate low, medium or high COVID community transmission levels.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

About two years since Idaho detected the first case of COVID-19, the state health department is scaling down some of its efforts to share disease data with the public.

The test positivity rate in Idaho is below 4% — as low as it's been since last June. That, along with other improving pandemic trends, has Idaho health officials feeling "cautiously optimistic."

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare conveyed this on Tuesday during the last regularly-scheduled COVID media briefing. The state will also change the data available on the COVID-19 dashboard, it announced.

More at-home testing and fewer case investigations mean the state's daily case numbers hold less weight. There will be more emphasis on hospital capacity, plus community-wide wastewater surveillance trends.

Several of those wastewater data points will soon be integrated with the national dashboard run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Dr. Christopher Ball, chief of the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories.

The department hasn't shared exactly how the publicly-available information will change, or when. Health leaders expressed any changes could scale up again if COVID-19 trends head in the opposite direction. They believe Idaho will likely see future waves of increased COVID-19 infections.

“We want to make sure people don’t say, ‘But you said it was over!’ Cause we’re not saying it’s over," said Dr. Christine Hahn, the state epidemiologist, on Tuesday.

Still, she's hopeful.

“Like last year, we see things headed in a good direction. We have more reason to hope even than last year that this could be more durable because of the higher population-level immunity, and maybe better tools to respond," Hahn said.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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