As Idaho enters its third reopening phase – with bars and cinemas allowed to open from May 30 – the public health district warns that a second wave of new corona viruses will be inevitable and continue to push for appropriate health and safety measures to prevent dangerous spikes in cases COVID-19.
South Central District Health Information Officer Brianna Bodily said the second wave was inevitable, and that the next round could be more severe than what we have seen so far.
“Preparing for a wave worse than the first,” Bodily told Mountain Express on Friday.
The public health district follows guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the country. These guidelines have changed rapidly, sometimes several times a day, because more and more information has been found about viruses almost constantly. Because of this ongoing development, planning as far as the fall is near impossible, according to Bodily.
“We all want things to go back to normal,” Bodily said. But, he added, until vaccines are made, approved and widely distributed, what is considered normal pre-pandemic is still far away. Currently, experts estimate the vaccine will be available early next year. That makes businesses, school districts, hospitals, and individuals prepare to live within limits for at least the next six months.
Initially, most residents were on board following restrictive steps, Bodily said. That has changed in the last few weeks. Several people reached through investigations by the District Health contact contact have refused to follow the guidelines, including recommendations for isolation for 14 days after exposure, according to Bodily.
“They really want to be back to normal,” he said. But for now, the safest way to protect the public is to take preventative measures and implement measures championed by the CDC and health officials, such as maintaining social distance, washing hands thoroughly and wearing masks when going out in public.
By incorporating these small steps into daily life, this will eventually become a habit that can protect the population in the long run, Bodily said.
Idaho is seen experiencing a decline in the first wave. As of Friday afternoon, 44,511 Idaho residents had been tested for COVID-19. During the week that covered May 17 through May 23, 4,960 people received testes throughout the state, and 4.3 percent returned positive, according to the state coronavirus website. That was a significant decline from the country’s peak during the week of March 29, when 7 percent returned positive. However, large-scale testing is still ongoing, with at least three food processing facilities across the state conducting cluster testing after a large number of employees have fallen ill, increasing caseloads in the South Central Health District.
At present, it is still too early to provide guidance for August, when schools are scheduled to hold updates for 2020-21. The South Central epidemiology leader has made contact with school districts in all eight jurisdictions, Bodily said, but only to offer guidance. These recommendations will depend on when the second wave of COVID-19 cases came and how residents handled them. In the end it will depend on each school district to decide how to continue falling.
If the second wave comes along with the flu season – which usually rises in November and peaks in January / February – that could mean hospitals will face a significant surge, potentially making health care difficult to meet demand. That could make the second wave worse than the first, which comes towards the end of the 2019-2020 flu season.
Bodily said the most important thing that businesses can do, especially those who have employees interacting with the public in their work capacities, is implementing plans to protect employees and customers if they are exposed to a virus. Masks only work if both parties use them and leave policies to be flexible to allow employees to stay at home when sick or waiting for test results. In addition, there must be a plan for how to deal with other employees who might have collaborated with colleagues who have tested positive.
“There has to be some level of reality,” Bodily said, and business owners must expect at least one of their employees to be infected with the virus if they haven’t.
Residents also need to make their own plans. Family emergency contacts must be renewed, and supplies must be available in the household if someone suddenly falls ill and cannot get to the store. And, said Bodily, people must pay attention to their finances and find ways to set aside money if they fall ill.
As the economy improves, community members must continue to take steps to stay healthy and safe, including when they decide to leave their homes and where they are going, according to Bodily. For example: If someone walks into a restaurant or shop and learns that the people inside don’t follow a good social distance protocol, they have the power to go out and go somewhere else. Blaine County is somewhat of a gold star area, said Bodily, when it comes to communities to follow mitigation measures and protect themselves and their neighbors from further infection but, “We are still far from the end of this fight,” Bodily said.
“People have the most power to protect their health,” he said. “The longer we fight, the longer we have to fight this disease.”
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