Idaho Ramps Up Coronavirus Response As Risk Remains Low

Mar 5, 2020

As cases of coronavirus continue to grow in the U.S., Idaho is taking steps to try to slow its eventual migration to the state.

There are no confirmed cases in Idaho, as of Wednesday afternoon, but six people have been tested and dozens are being monitored, according to state officials. Risk of contracting the illness is low for most people at this time.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare began working on its response to the coronavirus in early January, said Director Dave Jeppesen.

Gov. Brad Little (R) announced a working group that will coordinate with state and federal agencies on the matter. The state has also launched a website with more information on the response and the spread of the virus.

Little is also working with legislative leaders to set aside millions of dollars to respond to any potential outbreak that might happen.

“We know that we can’t stop it at this point,” said Christine Hahn, the state epidemiologist. “But what we can do is we can slow the virus down.”

To do that, Little urged people to wash their hands often, cover their mouth while sneezing or coughing, and above all, stay home if they’re sick.

By stemming the spread of the virus, hospitals, health clinics and doctors' offices across Idaho will be less inundated and more able to help those who have contracted the illness.  

Little also cautioned people against buying up massive amounts of supplies like hand sanitizer.

“If you buy all the hand sanitizer and you buy all the masks, you’re actually doing yourself a disfavor. That really doesn’t do you much good if everybody else around you is sick,” he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 80 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed across 13 states. Nine have died in that time.

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that appears to spread more easily than seasonal flu strains that are currently circulating, according to Hahn. It also appears to be 10 times more deadly than the flu, though she said data is constantly updated and its mortality rate may drop.

People may also not show symptoms after contracting the virus for several days. Coughing, fever and shortness of breath may occur anywhere from two to 14 days after a person is exposed, according to the CDC.

Idaho was one of the first states able to test for the virus. Little hasn’t asked insurance companies to fully cover the cost of the test – something that New York has done – but he says it’s an option as testing becomes more common.

Testing capacity is limited, but the state expects to receive more kits by the end of the week.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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