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Central District Health concerned about increasing coronavirus cases as students prepare to return to school

"I believe the positivity rate needs to come down," a doctor advising the health board said. "It at least has to be decreasing."

BOISE, Idaho — Board members from Central District Health met virtually on Tuesday to discuss Idaho's surge of COVID-19 cases as thousands of students prepare to go back to school.

Dr. David Peterman, president of Primary Health Medical Group, the Treasure Valley's largest primary care system, believes the community's positivity rate is far too high for students to return to the classroom.

Ideally, Peterman said, the state's positivity rate should be 5% before face to face learning resumes. That means out of every 100 people tested for COVID-19, five or fewer would come back positive.

"I believe the positivity rate needs to come down," Peterman said. "It at least has to be decreasing. Of course, I would like 5% but I will accept less than 10%."

Dr. David Pate, a member of Idaho's coronavirus task force, told KTVB on Monday that Idaho's positivity rate is currently at about 15%.

Secondly, Peterman believes schools need to have detailed plans in place.

"What is their plan to get the children to school, what is their plan in terms of timing to get children not close together in the halls, what is the plan in the classrooms, what is the plan with teachers if one gets ill, how are you going to handle index cases, how are you going to handle lunches?" he asked. "There are so many aspects of this and it is a lot to ask of the schools."

Peterman added that he is concerned with hospitals and clinics being overwhelmed once flu season begins in the fall and other viruses are going around.

"At some point you are going to have to make decisions based on clinical symptoms and severity of illness in terms of what child will get a test," he said.

CDH will meet again next Tuesday. One of the topics up for discussion, is making masks mandatory in Ada County even when six feet of physical distance can be maintained.

Currently, the mask mandate only applies to when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Gretchen Parsons is an anchor, reporter and producer at KTVB since 2016. You can follow her on Instagram @gretchenparsonsKTVB or  @gretchenKTVB on Twitter.

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