Nicole Blanchard Statesman of Idaho
BOISE – Two cities in Idaho topped the New York Times list for the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the past two weeks, showing dozens of people per 100,000 residents infected with the virus every day.
According to the New York Times COVID-19 interactive dashboard, which tracks city-level deaths and case counts for metropolitan areas, Idaho Falls and Rexburg are among the nation’s worst hotspots. Idaho Falls ranked No. 1, with an average of 55.9 cases per 100,000 residents each day for the past two weeks. The closest hot spot was New York City, with 44.1 cases per capita. Not far from New York, Rexburg had an average of 38.9 daily cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Idaho Falls and Rexburg were the only cities in Idaho to make the top 20. In contrast, Boise had just 12.8 cases per capita, which puts it at No.311 on the New York Times list.
Bonneville County, home to Idaho Falls, has reported a spike in cases in recent weeks. According to data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare tracked by the Statesman, Bonneville County has recorded triple-digit case numbers several times a week for about two weeks.
Things might not get better for Idaho Falls in the near term. The city also made it to the top 20 of The Times’ list of cities where new cases are increasing the fastest. Idaho Falls has reported an increase of about 63 new cases per 100,000 population when comparing last week’s total to current totals.
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Meanwhile, Rexburg has also been on The Times’ list of places hardest hit by the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. It has reported 145 cases per 1,000 residents in the past year, making it the eleventh most affected city in the United States since last year.
Many of these cases were reported last fall, when the number increased in Rexburg in part due to an outbreak linked to Brigham Young University-Idaho. Rexburg topped The Times’ worst epidemic list in the first week of October.
Mimi Taylor, spokesperson for East Idaho Public Health which oversees both Bonneville and Madison counties, told the Statesman in an email that people transmit the virus by leaving their homes when they are sick. Taylor also said that residents of the district gathered in groups without social distancing or masks.
“Basically people are not following public health guidelines that have been proven to slow the spread of the virus,” she said.
According to a New York Times analysis, both counties are considered “high risk” areas for contracting COVID-19. Several other counties, most also in eastern Idaho, are also considered extremely high risk. These are the counties of Latah, Franklin, Bingham, Jefferson and Fremont. (Ada County is considered “very high risk,” while much of the rest of Idaho is simply “high risk.”)