BOISE, Idaho — The Central District Health board on Tuesday voted to schedule a special meeting for later this week to consider a proposal that would escalate the current public health advisory to an official order.
At a meeting Tuesday evening, the board heard a presentation by CDH Communicable Disease Control Manager Kim Link, who painted a bleak picture as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the health district's four-county region.
Of primary concern, Link said, are increases in not only case numbers but also hospitalizations.
"Our trends are continuing to head in the wrong direction," she said. "We've seen dramatic increases in our hospitalizations over the past month.
"We're in a situation where we truly have widespread community transmission [of coronavirus] that's occurring," she added. "We've reached the point that there's so much illness the community that the risk illness or risk of exposure is occurring anytime people are spending time with people who live outside of their own household."
Board member Ted Epperly, who is also a physician, said many Idaho hospitals are on the brink of going to crisis standards of care and may soon have to resort to sending patients out of state.
"We've got a major, imminent crisis on our hands," Epperly said before recommending that the board consider changing the existing health advisory to an order. "If we do not do this, we will lose the hospitals. Hear me when I say that we will lose the hospitals, we will go on a total divert in the Treasure Valley, we already know, Utah is not taking, Montana is not taking, Nevada is not taking, that means by plane we will have to transport people to Portland and to Seattle and that's for routine hospitalizations, not just COVID cases."
The current advisory recommends that people wear face coverings at all times around anyone who is not a member of their immediate household when physical distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained. The only exceptions are for children younger than age 2, people who have trouble breathing, people who cannot remove the mask without assistance, or people who are obtaining a service involving the nose, face, or head - such as a dentist appointment.
The advisory also urges people to work from home if at all possible, to minimize non-essential travel, and to suspend visits to congregate living facilities, such as prisons or long-term care facilities.
As for businesses, churches, schools and other places where group activities occur, the advisory recommends the following:
- Businesses should implement delivery and/or curb-side services
- Places of worship should implement virtual services
- Discontinue youth and adult sports/activities in which physical distancing is not possible
- Discontinue school extracurricular activities of all types in which physical distancing cannot be maintained and where physical distancing can be maintained but the activity requires increased breathing, such as choir and band.
- Bars, restaurants, breweries, taprooms, wineries and distilleries should implement takeout or carryout only; close at 10 p.m.
- Gyms and other fitness or group exercise facilities should limit capacity to not more than 50%. Class instructors should maintain a distance of at least six feet from participants at all times.
"It is critically important that our communities follow the recommendations that have been issued to avoid a crisis situation that I would say seems to be developing fairly quickly based on the case counts, the upward trend of the high positivity rates and increased hospitalizations," Central District Health Director Russ Duke said.
Duke's staff is working to draft a proposed order based on the recommendations in the advisory. The proposed order will be posted on the CDH website at least 24 hours before the scheduled meeting on Friday, Dec. 4 at 5:15 p.m.
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