Little meets in Pocatello

Gov. Brad Little discusses COVID-19 with health officials in Pocatello last month. 

Bannock and Bingham counties are included in a recently designated COVID-19 “red zone,” where the White House’s coronavirus task force recommends that cities and counties mandate the wearing of face coverings.

Southeastern Idaho Public Health confirmed 37 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 21 new cases in Bannock County and nine new cases in Bingham County. Statewide, 567 new probable and confirmed cases were reported Friday, bringing Idaho’s total caseload since the start of the pandemic to 20,246. Officials reported 177 of those patients have died.

In Eastern Idaho, Bonneville and Jefferson counties are also among the 14 Idaho counties included in the state’s red zone, according to a report provided by Gov. Brad Little’s office. The zone includes counties with new case rates of at least 100 per 100,000 people, as well as a positive test rate of above 10%.

Four Idaho cities — Idaho Falls, Burley, Boise and Coeur d’Alene — were also classified as red zones.

The task force advises affected counties to consider mask mandates and to consider restricting the reopening guidelines for businesses and gatherings. The task force also recommends bringing testing and contact tracing to neighborhoods and ZIP codes in the Central and Southwest health districts.

The health district’s plan, which uses different criteria, still had Bannock and Bingham counties classified as being minimal risk for COVID-19, which is color coded green, as of Friday. However, officials say active caseloads in the two counties are reaching concerning levels.

One of the plan’s criteria for elevating the risk level to yellow, or moderate, would be for Bannock County to reach 88 active cases for three consecutive days, or for Bingham County to have 47 active cases for three consecutive days. On Friday, Bannock County was approaching the mark with 71 active cases, and Bingham County had already exceeded it with 69 active cases.

Southeastern Idaho Public Health Director Maggie Mann said the two counties remained at the green level on Friday, however, because the plan also considers other factors, such as ventilator capacity, hospital intensive care bed capacity and availability of personal protective equipment.