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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.

Compliance, Testing Still Challenging Idaho’s COVID-19 Response

Russell Tate
United Nations COVID-19 Response Creative Content Hub

Some of Idaho’s COVID-19 trends are looking promising, for now, multiple health officials said this week. But, testing and public buy-in of prevention efforts continue to be obstacles for public health leaders in the state.


Idaho is still a long way from testing the 150,000 people each week that the testing task force recommended months ago. There have been some strides since then, though. Idaho has exceeded the White House recommendation of testing 2% of the population each month. 


In June, about 10,000 tests were conducted each week, which jumped to 20,000 by August. Weekly tests have declined in the past few weeks, but so has the percentage of positive test results.


During the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's quarterly meeting on Thursday, Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said the state has recently allocated about $40 million of federal CARES Act money to boost testing capacity.


Twenty-one million dollars is earmarked for schools to test teachers, students and staff. Other money is dedicated to rural pharmacies, long-term care centers and laboratories.

Local public health leaders also gave updates from their regions during Thursday's meeting. Though, most reported increased mask compliance, even in some places with no mandates, they all said COVID-19 has been politicized, and that's been a big challenge for their work.


“We certainly have people on both ends of the spectrum — some that feel that we’re doing too much to respond and others that feel that we’re not doing enough," said Geri Rackow, the director of Eastern Idaho Public Health in Idaho Falls.

“And, unfortunately, it is a mixed message that comes not only from just the general public, but also some of our elected leaders — both state and local level," she said.


Other health districts have seen protests, threats to staff and a lawsuit over a mask mandate


Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.