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Idaho pathologist explains how COVID-19 cases are dropping

The owner of Cole Diagnostics, which conducts COVID-19 tests, said COVID-19 is following patterns of similar viruses and slowly infecting fewer people.

BOISE, Idaho — Dr. Ryan Cole, a pathologist and owner of Cole Diagnostics, a testing lab in Garden City, last spoke to KTVB in mid-December about rarely leaving the lab with so many COVID-19 samples waiting to be tested. Just over a month later, the pandemic in Idaho is starting to slow, much as he anticipated then. 

"If you look at the history of all coronaviruses, coronaviruses are seasonal," he explained to KTVB on Dec. 17. "We kind of suppressed that life cycle with the lockdowns after March by about three months, and usually in the Fall and Winter, coronaviruses will flare, be it the common cold type or the pandemic we do have."

When KTVB last spoke to Dr. Cole, Idaho conducted about 45,000 tests. Now, that number has fallen to about 30,000.

"I think the demand has gone down because I think the number of people sick has actually gone down as well," he said. "400 to 600 patients a day, that's still busy, don't get me wrong. But now I get to go home and sleep in my own bed for a change, which is kind of nice."

He explained that like the normal cold or relatives of the coronavirus eventually begin losing hosts to infect and that is part of the reason that Idaho is seeing a decrease in the 14-day average of daily reported cases.

"Once the virus has penetrated a set part of population in some areas of the world it's 20% others it's thirty%, some places maybe a little higher, but any given year the coronavirus can account for maybe 10% to 25% of the common cold that we see," he explained. "So over the last 10 to 15 years, a lot of people have just had an alpha coronavirus, a common cold coronavirus, so because of that a lot of us have an immune memory, even though it wasn't SARS CoV2, it says, 'Great, I recognize this.' So part of that drop in the curve the virus is looking for somebody to infect and as it tries to infect people that have a cross-immunity, the virus can't do it anymore, so the virus doesn't have a host that can carry it."

On Dec. 9, a single-day record of 2,229 of total new cases was established and by Dec. 12, the 14-day average hit its peak of 1,493. On Jan. 25, 573 total cases were reported, dropping the 14-day average to 696.

"I don't want to say we shouldn't be cautious but i do think we should be optimistic by the fact that we're in a good position and we're heading in a good direction at this moment," Dr. Cole said.

RELATED: 'I haven't slept since yesterday morning': Idaho pathologist details life inside COVID-19 testing lab

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