Over half of Idaho COVID-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities

by Thomas Plank Tplan
| August 5, 2020 12:23 PM

BOISE — State officials said during Tuesday’s AARP telephone conference that 58% of Idaho’s COVID-19 deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities.

“It’s tragic for the families impacted,” said Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare; he added that the state was working with long term care facilities on creating more robust infection control programs.

Jeppesen said the state was prioritizing long-term care facility COVID-19 tests, by sending them to its state labs, which have a swifter turnaround time than larger national labs.

The state on Monday reached 21,675 cases of COVID-19 and 200 deaths related to the disease. Of those confirmed deaths, 115 were related to long-term care facilities, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said.

For much of July, Idaho was averaging over 400 new positive test results per day, according to coronavirus.idaho.gov.

Jeppesen said masks and social distancing seem to be helping.

“Where those practices are being followed, there are some good trends in the data, but we’re not ready to call it a victory yet,” said Jeppesen.

“The testing positivity rate is still very high, and the virus in the community is quite active,” he said.

Gov. Brad Little, who also participated in the call, said he’s not ready to sign off on a statewide mask mandate, pointing out that 17 of Idaho’s 44 counties have fewer than five cases per 100,000 population.

“We want people to do social distancing. … We want people to wear masks because it’s the right thing, or even because they mandated it in certain cases,” said Little, who noted he has been wearing mask.

Little also said that “no one anticipated the numbers going up nationwide.”

Little also said he hoped to have children back in school, but noted again it would be a district-by-district decision.

“When we had a bad outbreak in Ketchum, Hailey and they were shipping patients to Twin Falls, we had a real problem and needed to close schools in Blaine County,” Little said. He also noted his concern about some children potentially falling behind because they do not learn well online.

“I’m asking how to we measure online performance, and that’s the question I continue to ask of the State Board of Education,” Little said.

Little and Jeppesen asked Idahoans to remain vigilant in the coming weeks and months, even as Little said he had “pretty good confidence there will be a vaccine sooner than later.”