On the same day that a COVID-19 variant first identified in India was confirmed to be in Ada County, Central District Health lifted its public health advisory for Ada and the three other counties under its jurisdiction, according to a news release Thursday.
The decision comes after a week of easing restrictions and several weeks of positive trends in Idaho’s caseload. Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare propelled the state into Stage 4 of its reopening on Tuesday, removing recommended limits on gathering sizes, and on Thursday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance that fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, unless in a crowded transportation mode or public health setting.
Local jurisdictions or businesses still may require masks.
CDH, which has jurisdiction over Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties, said in a Thursday release that Idahoans should still consider wearing masks depending on the setting. Masks remain an “effective” way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, according to the department.
“Some situations remain at a higher risk, such as visiting an indoor establishment, versus outdoor venues,” according to the release. “Think about possible scenarios and make prepared decisions when around those who haven’t had the chance to get vaccinated, such as adolescents and children, and those who are immunocompromised.”
In Boise, masks are still required in indoor public spaces and gatherings are limited to 50 people without a signed safety plan from CDH, according to the city’s website. But the mayor’s office said in a release that it is reviewing its rules for Boise and will make an announcement about any possible changes on Friday.
After the CDC recommended that those ages 12 to 15 receive the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, providers around Idaho continued opening up appointments to the new age group on Thursday. Primary Health Medical Group, which has 20 clinics in the Treasure Valley, is now offering walk-in appointments for children, according to a release. Clinic locations can be found on the Primary Health website.
VARIANT FROM INDIA FOUND IN ADA COUNTY
A variant of the coronavirus that has been linked to the mammoth COVID crisis surging in India has been identified in Ada County, according to Central District Health.
The health agency announced Thursday that a man younger than 30 who was infected in April and who “reported having recently traveled internationally” had a strain of the virus known as B.1.617.2, which was first identified in India. He was not hospitalized, according to CDH.
In recent weeks, India has faced an out-of-control second wave that has left at least 250,000 people dead and 23 million infected with COVID-19, according to The New York Times. The South Asian country has accounted for nearly half of the globe’s daily cases in May, according to Sky News, and has broken records with over 400,000 new daily infections.
Multiple variants are circulating in the world’s second most populous country, Delhi, including the U.K. variant, B.1.1.7. But scientists have linked the B.1.617 variant, of which there are multiple sub-lineages, to many of the cases surging across India. The variant is believed by some scientists to be “more transmissible and slightly better at evading immunity than existing variants,” according to Nature.
On Monday, the World Health Organization, the United Nations’ public health agency, elevated the India variant from a “variant of interest” to a “variant of concern.” The higher threshold for variants of concern is used when evidence suggests that viral strains are more transmissible, virulent, or resistant to public health measures, according to the WHO.
In the U.S., the B.1.617 strains are still listed as variants of “interest” by the CDC.
Though Central District Health did not disclose where the infected Ada County man had traveled, the variant identified in India has now been found in more than 40 countries. Last week, the White House moved to restrict travel from India, citing the magnitude of the country’s crisis.
There have been 139 cases of variants of concern recorded in CDH territory, including 135 in Ada County, according to the health district. Other variants found include the U.K. (B.1.1.7), California (B.1.427/B.1.249), New York City (B.1.526) and Brazil (P.1) versions. The Brazil variant hasn’t been found in a person in Ada (it was in Elmore) but was detected in Boise wastewater.
The U.K. variant has been found 264 times in Idaho and the California variants 57 times. The New York variant is next at seven cases, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
149 NEW CASES, 0 DEATHS
Continuing a downward trend, Idaho added 149 new cases and no COVID-related deaths on Thursday, according to updated data from Health and Welfare.
The additional cases mark the lowest daily tally in two months.
More than half of the new cases were added in Ada (45 new, 52,189 total), Canyon (21 new, 26,783 total) and Kootenai (28 new, 18,133 total) counties. The state also subtracted one case from Boise County (356 total).
There have been 2,064 COVID-19-related deaths in Idaho, and the state estimates that 109,387 people have recovered from the disease.
The other counties adding new cases on Thursday were: Bannock (3 new, 8,777 total), Bingham (1 new, 4,826 total), Bonner (1 new, 3,248 total), Bonneville (3 new, 14,899 total), Elmore (5 new, 2,018 total), Franklin (3 new, 1,187 total), Gem (5 new, 1,779 total), Gooding (4 new, 1,315 total), Idaho (5 new, 1,228 total), Jefferson (1 new, 3,004 total), Jerome (2 new, 2,606 total), Latah (8 new, 3,153 total), Lewis (1 new, 397 total), Madison (3 new, 7,201 total), Nez Perce (4 new, 3,631 total), Payette (1 new, 2,564 total), Twin Falls (6 new, 9,532 total).
Vaccine doses administered in Idaho: 1,141,083, according to Health and Welfare. Of those, 548,896 people have been fully vaccinated.
Overall hospitalizations: Health and Welfare reports that there have been 8,262 hospitalizations of people with COVID-19, 1,393 admissions to the ICU and 10,586 health care workers infected. Hospital and health care numbers are based on cases with completed investigations into contacts, not the full number of positives.
St. Luke’s Health System: As of May 12, the health system was reporting 18 patients in its hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 out of 528 patients overall. The health system reported a 14-day coronavirus test positivity rate of 4%.
Saint Alphonsus Health System: As of May 12, the health system was reporting 30 patients in its hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 out of 396 patients overall. The health system reported a 14-day coronavirus test positivity rate of 6.6%.
Boise School District: Reported confirmed cases since May 11: Garfield Elementary (1).
West Ada School District: Reported confirmed cases for April 29-May 12: Centennial High (3), Rocky Mountain High (2), Lake Hazel Middle (1), Lowell Scott Middle (2), Sawtooth Middle (3), Christine Donnell (1), Hillsdale Elementary (1), Hunter Elementary (2), Peregrine Elementary (1), Ponderosa Elementary (1), Willow Creek Elementary (1).
Total COVID-19 cases by county (confirmed + probable): Ada 52,189, Adams 341, Bannock 8,777, Bear Lake 382, Benewah 685, Bingham 4,826, Blaine 2,377, Boise 356, Bonner 3,248, Bonneville 14,899, Boundary 868, Butte 210, Camas 71, Canyon 26,783, Caribou 692, Cassia 2,942, Clark 59, Clearwater 1,050, Custer 250, Elmore 2,018, Franklin 1,187, Fremont 1,132, Gem 1,779, Gooding 1,315, Idaho 1,228, Jefferson 3,004, Jerome 2,606, Kootenai 18,133, Latah 3,153, Lemhi 528, Lewis 397, Lincoln 508, Madison 7,201, Minidoka 2,339, Nez Perce 3,631, Oneida 362, Owyhee 1,067, Payette 2,564, Power 655, Shoshone 1,117, Teton 1,221, Twin Falls 9,532, Valley 838, Washington 1,215.