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'I can see the goal line out there': Health experts urge Idahoans to keep taking precautions against COVID-19

Doctors say the pandemic isn't over and precautions are still needed to prevent the spread of the disease.

BOISE, Idaho — COVID-19 case numbers across Idaho are trending in the right direction. 

While that is positive news, health experts say it’s still not time to ease up on the precautions needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Medical leaders on Tuesday said it would be premature to ease restrictions and start getting back to normal when the virus and a handful of variants are still present throughout the state and the country.

Restrictions have recently eased in Idaho already though. Central District Health lifted mandates for both Ada and Valley counties last month. However, the cities of Boise and McCall have now both implemented their own city-wide precautions, including mask mandates.

The state is still in Stage 3 of Gov. Brad Little’s re-opening plan.

Idahoans have been following COVID-19 recommendations and mandates for nearly a year, and that will continue for at least the near future.

“This isn't over, we have to continue with these precautions until we can get more people vaccinated,” said Dr. David Pate, recently retired president and CEO of St Luke's and current member of the governor's coronavirus working group.

Pate told KTVB that it’s not time for Idaho to follow the path of Texas, which on Tuesday lifted all mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.

“The answer is not give up all care right now and just let’s spread the virus around,” Pate said. “That's exactly the wrong way to do it.”

RELATED: Legislation introduced to ban mask mandates in Idaho

It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific date or timeframe on when doing things like wearing a mask and avoiding large gatherings will no longer be needed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I don't have a particular date for you,” Pate said.

Some of the top health experts in the state are discussing the idea of when would be the best time to lift restrictions and get Idahoans back to normal life.

“We are going to tackle it,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said. “I don't think we foresee that as any time real soon.”

Hahn said during the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s weekly vaccine press conference on Tuesday that the state will soon be developing new metrics that help determine what restrictions are lifted and when.

“We need to incorporate the concept of vaccination of the population and our general level of immunity in the population which we think will be really important to determine when we can really get back to normal,” she said.

For the time being though, doctors are still advising Idahoans to not let their guard down.

“Today is not the day, we need several more months of people exercising good behaviors to allow us to get more people vaccinated so that we don't create a new variant,” Pate said. “We have to continue these precautions now or we will lose all the gains we've made.”

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday the country will have enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May.  That's two months earlier than the administration had previously thought.

Doctors say the important part now will be convincing enough people the vaccine is safe so we can reach herd immunity.

“We're running for that goal line and I can see the goal line out there,” Pate said. “It's not that much further away.”

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