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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.

Central District Health On COVID-19 Hospitalizations, ICU Admissions, Test Positivity Rates

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While most Idahoans have moved on from the Christmas/New Year break, caregivers nervously await what could be a post-holiday surge of COVIID-19.

"Typically what we see is that people will begin to become ill about five days after exposure to the virus," said Kimberly Link, program manager at Central District Health. "So, for those who, maybe, were exposed around Christmas, those people are ill at this point."

Link visted with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about COVID-related hospitalizations, COVID test positivity rates, and the fact that COVID-19 safety protocols might keep this season's flu season in check.

“There are a lot of people out there who have COVID, who haven't been tested for their illness and they may be at higher risk of transmitting to other people.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. There is so much critical information regarding COVID-19 for us to know and understand; and that's why we have the Kimberly Link, program manager for Central District Health to join us this morning. And a reminder that Central District Health includes Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties. Kim, good morning.

KIMBERLY LINK: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Idaho's major hospital systems are here in the Treasure Valley. So, let's talk a bit about Ada County. Can you give us a sense of current hospitalizations in Ada County?

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Credit Central District Health

LINK: So, within Ada County, when we look at our hospitalizations at Central District Health, we're looking at that information in two different ways: the first way is Ada County residents who are currently hospitalized with COVID. And then we're also looking at hospitalizations overall among the hospitals within Ada County and both for Ada County Hospital, Ada County resident hospitalizations. And for hospitalizations in among all residents in Ada County hospitals, we are seeing a decrease in the number of people hospitalized from what we saw about a month ago. However, at this point in time, we still have about 70 Ada County residents who are currently hospitalized with COVID. And as we look at the total hospitalizations, we're over 100 people that are hospitalized within our hospitals due to COVID. And of course, ICU capacity has been one of the most concerning areas. When we look at COVID hospitalizations right now, almost a quarter of our ICU beds are being used by people who need care due to their COVID infection.

PRENTICE: When might we see an impact from the Christmas New Year holidays? I'm assuming that is unfortunately more probable than possible. Yes?

LINK: Yes, definitely, we know that there were people who were traveling all around the US during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and we know that our case numbers here in the Treasure Valley area are still higher as well. Typically, what we see is that people will begin to become ill about five days after exposure to the virus. So for those who maybe were exposed around Christmas, those people are ill at this point. And we are starting to see some of those impacts from New Year's over the next few days to the next week, I think will be we'll be seeing those impacts from the New Year's holiday.

PRENTICE: Let's talk a bit about testing, which remains a critical piece of the solution. Can you give us an idea of percent positivity rates of COVID testing?

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Credit Central District Health

LINK: So right now, we're sitting at about 10 percent positivity in Health District 4, and what that means is that for every 10 people who are being tested for COVID, one of them is testing positive. And while that sounds like a good number and it is much better than what we were seeing about a month ago when our positivity was at about 17 or 18 percent, it's still not where we want to see that be. Ideally, our percent positivity should be in the range of about five percent. And what that number tells us is that enough people are getting tested for COVID that we're able to really identify everybody who's sick with the virus at that point in time, as we are above 10 percent. That means that there are a lot of people out there who have COVID, who haven't been tested for their illness and that they may be at higher risk of transmitting to other people.

PRENTICE: Lest we forget, we're also in the midst of a flu season and what we talk so much about COVID and appropriately so sometimes we lose track of where we are in the season. I guess what I'm asking, is there a risk here of us not keeping our eye on the ball when it comes to keeping flu out of our lives?

LINK: That's a great question, and I think it's something that we do need to continue to pay attention to. Thankfully, many of the things that we're doing in our day to day lives right now to prevent COVID also work well to prevent the flu. So things like wearing a mask, staying away from other people when possible, staying out of social gatherings, washing your hands, all of those things that we're doing for COVID help with the flu as well. The other thing to remember is that it's not too late to get a flu shot if you haven't already received one.

PRENTICE: True … for all of us who are anxious to get that COVID vaccine, flu shots are out in abundance and are readily available. Kimberly Link is program manager with Central District Health. Thank you so very much for joining us.

LINK: Thank you and have a good day.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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