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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.

Idaho's COVID-19 Reporting System Could Make It Hard To Judge Community Risk

Governor Tom Wolf/ Flickr Creative Commons

As coronavirus cases rise and testing becomes scarce, Idaho’s COVID-19 numbers may not be telling the full story.


St. Luke’s McCall hosted a virtual town hall Monday to discuss the threat of COVID-19 in Valley County. The county has seen an increase in cases, but Gina Pannell, Central District Health Project Manager, said because of the way cases are reported, the numbers may be even higher. 

Pannell said when a person tests positive for COVID-19, the case is recorded in the county where their primary residence is. 

“We know that in Valley County, 70 percent of your residents are second homeowners, so we want to keep that variable into consideration," said Pannell. 

Even if these second homeowners are in Valley County for extended periods, their positive test wouldn’t show up in county numbers. The same goes for those working in Valley County for the summer. 

“If they're a seasonal worker and they're not from here," said Pannell, "but their primary residence is in Oregon, for example, then that case count will go to another state in this case.”

This could mean resort towns like McCall could be reporting superficially low numbers of community cases. Those discrepancies could lead to inaccurate evaluations of personal risk and hospital capacity. Pannell said reporting problems like this are a statewide concern.

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