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Idaho State Epidemiologist urges caution as COVID cases rise again

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Travelers have lots of new coronavirus-related questions about booking — and canceling — flights.

Idaho State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn is encouraging people to take precautions as COVID-19 cases begin to rise again in the state.

Dr. Hahn joined host Troy Oppie and talked about recent coronavirus case data, traveling and vaccines as we head into the summer.

Read the full transcript below:

Dr. Christine Hahn: Yeah. Well, Troy, I think the data is all telling us the same thing. And so each one, while subtle, I think you look at them all together. So I think what this is telling us is that we are seeing increases in viral activity in Idaho and in particular with the strongest data is right here in Boise area where we see the the rise in the in the wastewater data as well. I think it tells us that, you know, we can't presume the virus is gone or is going to stay away. We, of course, don't know how severe it might be if we see another wave. I'm hopeful with summer, you know, most respiratory viruses tend to go down in the summer. That didn't happen last summer. Right. We had a disappointing experience last summer. So I certainly can't predict. But we're hopeful that this won't be a severe wave. We're just reminding Idahoans to, you know, take precautions. I just got back from Seattle last night for a meeting. And, you know, the crowds are back at the airports. The crowds are back in public places. And, you know, most people are so happy to not have to wear a mask anymore that really I think people are feeling very confident. And there's a lot of people out and about without masks and feeling, you know, that it's okay to get back together again.

Troy Oppie: I'll just ask, did you mask up when you traveled?

Hahn: I did. I did. I know. Actually, while you're on the airplane itself, it's probably one of the safer times. You know, I took my mask off to have a sip of water, but really I tend to wear mine. Certainly in the airport was so crowded. People in Seattle come in from all around the world and I just felt like it was the right thing to do. I felt much more comfortable with my mask on.

Oppie: We have had a fairly comfortable couple almost three months. As you watch the the data change now, how is that informing the decisions that are being made at Health and Welfare and what steps are you preparing to take?

Hahn: A couple of things. First of all, we've needed a breather like everybody else. So we feel like, you know, we've been happy that Idahoans have been able to get back to a much more normal life, as it were. One thing I'll say is, I do hope that Idahoans that have been considering whether it's the vaccine for the first time, whether it's a booster or even Idahoans, 50 and older, or with an immunocompromised condition, or who've only received Johnson and Johnson, I hope they'll consider that second booster dose that's been recommended for them. For many of us, while the disease rates were so low, it's hard to get motivated to go get another shot, but we're seeing them creep up. We certainly hope that people that are have been recommended to consider that second booster. Give it a thought now that we are seeing cases rise.

Oppie: You have the CDC risk metrics that that are appear to be a little more reactive than than maybe predictive the wastewater data, the testing percentage, the daily case rate. How should people out there, if they are choosing to use this data to inform decisions, what's the best way to to look at all of that and and digest it?

Hahn: Yeah, I think it is. I appreciate that way of describing it. There's really we have lots of different pieces of information and really want to look at the sum whole. What is this all telling us? What any single thing is wrong sometimes or is lagging? It's not telling us things. I would take all this data together and say the virus appears to be creeping up again. We know we have the new the newest variant omicron is here, meaning the one that the BA.2.12.1, you know, as we affectionately call it. So we know that that is probably behind this increase and that virus is not more severe but is very transmissible. So please take precautions, especially if you're immune-compromised, make sure you're up to date on your boosters and shots. And just remember that this virus can still be nasty, especially for people who are not up to date on their vaccines.