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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.

White House Task Force Recommends Closing Idaho Schools In Hot Spots

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A new report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force is calling on some Idaho school districts to stop in-person learning due to high positivity rates among school-age children.

 

The reports are sent to governors each week. The October 4 report for Idaho said there are rapidly increasing case counts and positivity rates of COVID-19 among 12 through 17-year-olds in several counties: Bannock, Bingham, Blaine, Custer, Elmore, Franklin, Gem, Gooding, Twin Falls and Washington.  

This, the report said, suggests outbreaks in those places could be tied to school openings. As a result, the White House Task Force recommended Idaho counties with high test positivity and case rates among school-age children move to online schooling.   

The Center For Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization, has been making these reports public since it learned about them in July. It said the most recent one from Idaho appears to be the first state report in which the White House explicitly calls for certain schools to close. 

“Governor Little and the Governor’s Coronavirus Working Group are continuously evaluating recommendations from a number of sources regarding Idaho’s COVID-19 response,” a spokesperson in the governor’s office wrote in an email, commenting on the latest report. “The document from the White House is provided to Idaho’s public health districts for their consideration. Governor Little remains committed to working with public health and local school districts to determine recommendations that work at the local level.”

 

The report also found counties home to Idaho's universities have high positivity rates for the 18-24 age group. The positivity rate in Latah is 81% for that cohort, in Madison it’s 23% and in Ada it’s 16%. 

The North Central Public Health District was unable to verify Latah County’s high positivity rate among college-age people because it says it is only made aware of the rate for the whole county, which is 21%. 

Similar to the guidance for K-12 schools, the task force recommended universities in counties with high positivity rates among college students move online. The report specifically lists Latah, Madison and Ada, where University of Idaho, Brigham Young University-Idaho and Boise State University are located.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 

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