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What coronavirus precautions are underway in Idaho?

Treasure Valley and state organizations are preparing safety precautions to minimize spread in the event of an outbreak.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: The above video takes a look at how thoroughly we should be washing our hands to avoid the spread of any disease. 

As communities across the U.S. cancel events and discourage group gatherings to proactively minimize the spread of novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, local and state organizations in Idaho are focused on necessary precautions to lessen community risk.

In the last two days, the U.S. has seen a wave of closures or postponements, including MLB cancelling spring training and the NBA suspending its season. 

Treefort Music Fest organizers announced Wednesday they were postponing the Boise music festival to September. 

The Big Sky Conference is canceling the remainder of the 2020 Basketball Championships due to concerns about coronavirus. 

Earlier this month, Idaho Gov. Brad Little ensured the people of Idaho that the state is closely monitoring the spread of the virus.

"The individual risk for coronavirus in Idaho is still low. However, national and international situations rapidly involving, and we do expect cases in Idaho at some point. But, Idaho is prepared," Little said during a press conference on March 2.

Little said that people of older age and those with existing health conditions or compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk. People who are generally healthy and parents of healthy children should not be concerned about the coronavirus, according to the governor. 

Scroll down to see what officials in Idaho, Boise, at Idaho universities and other organizations are doing to mitigate risk. 

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State of Idaho

Gov. Little requested $2 million in emergency funds from the legislature to prepare for the coronavirus. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved the transfer to the Governor’s Emergency Fund on March 6.

On Wednesday, the Center for Disease Control  (CDC) also allocated about $4.5 million to Idaho to fight the potential outbreak of coronavirus. The money being given to Idaho is part of nearly $560 million that will be distributed throughout the nation.

"Our state, local, tribal and territorial public health partners are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. The action we are taking today will continue to support their efforts to increase public health capacity where it's needed most," said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. "These funds will allow public health leaders to implement critical steps necessary to contain and mitigate spread of the virus in communities across the country."

The breakdown as to how the federal funds will be distributed can be found here.

On March 4, Gov. Little also announced that the state has created a website that contains current information from Idaho officials and instructions on how to prevent the spread of the virus in Idaho.

City of Boise

Boise mayor Lauren McClean announced the creation of a coronavirus task force that will work with other local and state agencies to ensure Idaho is prepared for a potential outbreak. 

"It's important to remember that the individual risk to Idaho is low, but we want to be prepared as a city if there is an outbreak to address it quickly and efficiently," McClean said in a press release. "This task force will ensure we can do that."

During a press conference held on Tuesday, McClean also announced that the city is adding more sanitation stations at City Hall, city libraries and the Boise Airport. McClean added that the airport will also be cleaned more frequently as a precaution.

"So we’re encouraging all events that are upcoming to be working with Central District Health on ways to protect their attendees but also contingency plans in the event that confirmed cases arrive here in Idaho and we need to take action," McClean said.

City of Meridian

Following Boise, the City of Meridian is also closely monitoring the potential outbreak of coronavirus and is taking precautionary measures to avoid citywide spread.

On Tuesday, the city stated that they "are actively participating with the local Ada County Emergency Management planning group and are part of regional planning discussions." 

City officials added that the public will be notified should they receive new recommendations of information from local and state agencies, and urged locals not to depend on social media as their source of information regarding the coronavirus. 

In addition to city-wide precautions, Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services in Meridian has implemented new safety measures due to the volume of high-risk patients staff interact with on a daily basis.

 Executive Director Matthew Croft told KTVB that the company is taking all precautions recommended by the CDC and encouraging their staff to wash and sanitize their hands frequently when interacting with clients.

Idaho universities

Although there are no confirmed cases in Idaho, Boise State University and University of Idaho informed students that necessary precautions will be taken to prevent the spread among faculty and students.

On Friday, Boise State is testing their preparedness for a coronavirus outbreak by conducting all classes online. University officials said an outbreak can affect the daily operations of the campus and want to ensure the school is prepared for all classes to be conducted online should an outbreak occur. 

University of Idaho is also testing an online-only class model for students and faculty. Rather than a one day period, U of I officials said all classes will be conducted electronically on Monday and Tuesday, March 23 and 24. 

Both universities have told faculty to not cancel classes and to conduct classes online on the scheduled days, as online classes may need to be conducted for an extended period of time. 

Boise State also implemented a travel ban to and from China over fears of the coronavirus on Feb. 2. All students, researchers and other faculty are no longer permitted for international travel to China to prevent a potential spread.

In addition, Boise State also placed four students from South Korea in a 14-day self-isolation on March 5. The students were traveling to Boise State to take part in a program at the university. 

Although the students cleared a health screening and showed no additional signs or symptoms of the coronavirus, the university placed them in self-isolation as a precautionary measure for other students and faculty. 

Boise organizations

Numerous organizations in Boise have informed the community of what steps they are taking in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Boise Rescue Mission CEO Rev. Bill Roscoe said in a press release that the staff is aware of Idaho's coronavirus status and is working to educate guests at the mission to reduce the spread of the virus.

"The Mission has previously developed plans to react to large-scale emergencies, such as flood, fire, severe weather, and has maintained the necessary food and supplies to carry the organization through those possible events," Roscoe wrote in a press release. "We have plans already in place to isolate an infected guest, or a number of guests."

Roscoe said himself and the Mission staff are remaining in close contact with local government agencies to receive the most recent information regarding the virus and plan to follow any guidelines put forth by local and state officials.

Ada County Jail

No inmates in the Ada County Jail have tested positive for coronavirus, but the jail says they are implementing more strategic plans to avoid the spread to other inmates and officers should someone in custody test positive. 

Inmates are already subjected to health screenings prior to entering the jail, but anyone who enters the jail with symptoms of the virus after having traveled to China, Spain, Italy, Iran or South Korea will be given a mask. The inmate will then undergo a medical assessment by a booking nurse and will be placed in a negative-pressure holding room, a room in which air is filtered before being sucked out.

All officers and deputies are required to take all necessary safety precautions when working in the jail, including frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with their own face.

Should an officer be exposed to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, several factors will be considered when deciding whether the officer should self-isolate or remain at work, including how close they were to the person exposed and what protective gear the officer was wearing at the time of the contact. 

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Hailey Police Department

Hailey Police Chief Steve England announced Thursday officers will avoid physical contact with people unless they are required to do so.

Facts not fear: Putting COVID-19 into context

WHO officials said March 9 that of about 80,000 people who have been sickened by COVID-19 in China, more than 70% have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

Patients are typically released when they test negative twice for the virus within 24 hours, meaning they’re no longer carrying the virus, although some countries may be using a slightly different definition, that may include when people have no more respiratory symptoms or a clear CT scan.

The World Health Organization said it could take considerably longer for people to be “recovered,” depending on the severity of disease.

Credit: TEGNA
Here's a look at how flu, allergy, and coronavirus symptoms are similar and different. It's not meant to scare, just educate. With this time of year, people are prone to allergies and the flu, and it's important to know what's what.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization's emergencies chief, said it can take up to six weeks for people to fully recover from COVID-19 infections, which could include pneumonia and other respiratory problems in serious cases. He said the numbers of reported patients have not always been systematically provided to World Health Organization although the U.N. health agency is asking every country with cases for further information.

In Idaho, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low, according to officials. At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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