Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (yellow), isolated from a patient sample. The black area in the image is extracellular space between the cells. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

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A New York Times virus tracker has listed two eastern Idaho cities as among the worst COVID-19 hot spots right now. 

Idaho Falls and Rexburg, both along the I-15 corridor, are first and third among metro areas, respectively, in the number of new cases per capita in the country. At 55.9 new daily cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days, Idaho Falls was well ahead of New York City, which is second, and Rexburg has 38.9 new daily cases per 100,000 people.

For reference, however, Teton County has 40 new daily cases per 100,000 in the past seven days following an uptick in case numbers.

In Jackson, hospitalizations are low, even though case numbers are higher than public health officials deem safe, but in the eastern Idaho cities, hospital beds are in short supply. The Idaho Falls Post Register reported that as of Tuesday, 90% of staffed intensive care unit beds were full, with just four left in Idaho Falls, which has the majority of the region's capacity.

Beyond being where Jackson residents go to hit up big-box stores like Target, Idaho Falls has St. John's Health's primary transfer partner, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. St. John's officials have told the News&Guide in the past that until all beds are full the regional hospital will accept transfers, but a decrease in capacity represents a potential problem for anyone with major emergency medical issues in Jackson.

Eastern Idaho Public Health has removed all mask mandates for the counties it oversees, including those containing the two cities, with the last ones expiring today, March 18. It has signaled that it does not want to continue "issuing mask mandates as routine orders of business," the Post Register reported.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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