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Health officials believe Ada County mask order is working

Since Central District Health put the mask mandate in place on July 14, the county has seen a plateau in daily coronavirus cases.

ADA COUNTY, Idaho — It's been about four weeks since the board of Central District Health voted to put a mask order in place for Ada County. 

Since then, health officials believe the mandate is helping to slow community spread of COVID-19.

"In mid-July, particularly in early July, there were some alarming trends that were spiking and we saw some pretty severe increases and there were days we were well over 200, 300, 400 cases," said CDH program manager Brandon Atkins. 

So on July 14, the mask order was put into effect for Ada County. Over the last month, Atkins said, the upward trend in the number of daily cases has leveled off and for the most part, new confirmed cases have remained below 200 per day.

"We anticipated that after several weeks of that mandate being in place that we would start to see some plateauing, which we definitely have done," he said. 

According to data from Central District Health, there have only been two days since July 14 in which more than 200 new daily cases were reported for Ada County. The highest daily increase since the mask order was enacted has been 234 cases, which came on July 24. 

MORE: Idaho coronavirus latest: 505 new confirmed and probable cases; 130 inmates at Ada County Jail test positive for COVID-19

Prior to the mask order, the highest daily case count for Ada County was 428 on July 11. 

A 14-day average for the two weeks prior to July 14 shows an average of 206 daily cases in Ada County. 

In the two weeks following the mask order, that average dropped to 137 cases. 

"A lot of that we know is based on best practices such as social distancing and the masks," Atkins said. "We see people in communities that are implementing these practices and being consistent with the practices, we know it helps reduce that spread and that transmission risk." 

Canyon County has been another recent COVID-19 hot spot for Idaho. It currently has no mask requirement in place. 

Statewide data shows that Canyon County has now surpassed every other county in incidence rate. That means it has the highest ratio of new cases to total population size. 

Ada County comes in at the 7th highest incidence rate. 

The state also tracks the last seven days and gives an average for each county. As of Wednesday, Canyon County was fourth, which is about 28 cases per 100,000 population. Ada County was well below that at 17th with an average of 15 cases per 100,000 population. 

RELATED: Face masks now required in Valley County; Social gatherings in Ada County limited to groups of 10 or less

During a CDH board meeting on Tuesday, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo pointed out that health districts have close boundaries so it can be hard to determine exactly which community a case of the virus might have come from. And neighboring counties, such as Ada and Canyon, are likely impacting each other. 

"As we've kind of learned and discussed throughout this process, this pandemic, these arbitrary lines of our health districts don't necessarily make sense here in the Treasure Valley," she said. "We have people living and working across the border in Canyon County.

"It is an interrelated system," she added. 

According to Atkins, CDH would need to see the number of daily cases in Ada County cut in half to at least 70 or 80 new cases before the board would consider lifting any of the current restrictions. 

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