Health officials in North Idaho are offering guidance as the area continues to see a rise in cases of COVID-19.
As of Monday, June 29, the Panhandle Health District (PHD) was reporting a total of 285 cumulative coronavirus cases. Of that total, 121 patients were no longer being monitored, leaving 164 active cases.
As the number of new cases rises, community transmission is also being seen in Kootenai, Bonner and Benewah counties. According to a release from PHD, Bonner General Health (BGH) and Kootenai Health, contact tracing has shown many of the new cases are a result of social settings where no or very few precautions are being taken
Officials continue to urge that wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and handwashing work to slow the spread of the virus. They cite recent studies of masking efforts in New York, Wuhan and Italy that showed wearing masks in public is the best way to lower community transmission rates when everyone participates.
"The guidance continues to remain the same in combatting the virus," PHD Director Lora Whalen said. "Everyone who can, should be wearing a cloth face covering when out in public. Keeping a 6-foot distance between yourself and others is also very important. Lastly, handwashing and sanitizing high-touch surfaces is recommended."
"Earlier this year, we saw how social distancing and masking in public helped slow the virus spread so our local health care system was not overwhelmed in the first wave of COVID-19," Chief Physician Executive at Kootenai Health Karen Cabell D.O. said.
Cabell continued to not that there has been a sharp increase in cases as restrictions have been lifted, more in the first three weeks of June than were seen in March and May combined.
"We all want to keep our businesses open, safely go back to work and have adequate hospital capacity for a surge of COVID-19 patients needing care. We are asking everyone in our community to not let their guard down and to continue to practice the proven measures to fight COVID-19. Wear a mask in public, follow social distancing guidelines, stay home if you are sick and wash your hands frequently."
As more people are exposed to someone who has the virus, more people are seeking testing, but the health leaders said that a common misconception is that if someone came into contact with a person with coronavirus, they should get tested immediately. Unfortunately, it can be more complex than that. People who have had close contact with a person with the virus should begin to self-isolate from the general public, especially high-risk individuals.
"It's important not to test too soon" BGH Community Development Manager/Public Information Officer Erin Binnall said. "The incubation period for COVID-19 after exposure is approximately three to five days and possibly up to 14 days. If you test too soon after exposure, you may test negative, giving you a false sense of relief. your doctor can help you know the right time to be tested."
PHD is conducting contact tracing for every positive case and notifying people who may have been exposed to the virus. The process is completely voluntary and confidential.
People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
“We have learned a lot about COVID-19, how it spreads, and the measures needed to keep people safe,” Cabell said. “At Kootenai Health we are taking every precaution so we can protect patients and staff from the spread of COVID-19 and also continue to provide needed care for our community.”