Gov. Little wearing mask

Gov. Brad Little wears a mask off-camera as members of his staff address the media during a press conference in the Lincoln Auditorium at the Idaho Capitol in May 2020.

Unless you’re one of the 6,300 Idahoans living in three specific rural counties, you should be wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, according to federal guidelines.

It’s been more than three weeks since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people should be wearing masks indoors in public in hotspots. At the time, 89% of Idahoans should have resumed masking to abide by the new guidance, the Post Register previously reported.

But since then, Idaho’s coronavirus surge has skyrocketed, with cases nearly tripling. That has sent record numbers of people to intensive care units and ventilators. And it has strained health care resources to the point that Idaho hospital disaster planners were assembled this week. Some hospitals may soon need to use a plan to ration scarce and potentially life-saving care.

“There’s a sense of feeling deflated because so many patients who come in the door probably would’ve been prevented, their illness would have been prevented had they been vaccinated,” Dr. Meghan McInerney, ICU Medical Director at St. Alphonsus Health System, said Wednesday on Boise State Public Radio’s “Idaho Matters” show.

Now, 41 of 44 Idaho counties have substantial or high community transmission rates for COVID-19, the Post Register found by reviewing CDC data. Those counties are home to 1,780,799 people — almost the state’s entire population. The remaining 6,266 Idahoans live in Camas, Clark and Custer counties, which have what the CDC considers low transmission rates.

That means most Idahoans — including those in larger areas such as Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Coeur d’Alene — should be wearing masks indoors in public.

Thirty-seven Idaho counties have high community transmission, according to the CDC.

About 52% of eligible Idahoans are at least partially vaccinated, compared to 70% nationally.

Everyone age 12 and up is eligible for a free COVID-19 vaccine.

Idaho’s seven-day rolling case average rate hit 716 on Thursday, the highest it’s been since January, when the state was exiting a monthslong spike that nearly pushed health care resources past the brink. Idaho also recorded 1,217 new cases Wednesday, the highest single-day count since early January. Idaho’s infection rate is on par with the nation’s, according to CDC and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare data.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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