BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho now has more than 40,500 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and some health experts are warning that the state is entering its third wave of new infections.
"I think we are a week into our third spike that is going to be bigger than either of the ones before," Dr. David Pate, a member of the state's coronavirus task force and the former CEO of St. Luke's Health System said, Boise television station KTVB reported Sunday.
He added: "Every week we are opening up another school and we are putting more kids in classrooms. In addition we have college campuses back open and we have resumed sports."
Pate noted bars have reopened as well and that newly confirmed COVID-19 cases will likely reach their highest rates since the pandemic began in the coming weeks.
"Next month probably, certainly by November, we are going to have cold and flu season to add to that, which is going to make things worse," Pate said.
Some schools and universities across the state have been hit hard by the virus. School leaders at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg sent a memo to students and employees last week warning that the school could close its campus and switch to online learning if cases continue to rise.
The memo reminded students and employees that guidelines from the Eastern Idaho Public Health agency require masks and physical distancing in public.
"If BYU-Idaho students refuse to comply with EIPH guidelines or take actions that put others at risk, campus privileges may be restricted," the memo said. "This could include not being able to attend class on campus, work on campus, or receive in-person campus services. It could also result in suspension and/or dismissal from the university."
Jefferson School District #251 ordered 150 students to stay home on Monday and Tuesday because they had contact with nine students and nine staffers who tested positive for the virus.
More than 300 students and school staffers in Owyhee, Canyon, Payette, Gem, Washington and Adams counties were quarantined last week after exposure to the virus.
Idaho had 40,501 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus on Monday morning, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. So far, 460 people in Idaho have died of COVID-19.
Idaho ranks 11th in the nation for new confirmed cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the rolling average number of newly confirmed daily cases was nearly 200 for the past two weeks. That's an increase of more than 86% over the previous period.
The state's testing positivity rate is about 13.4% according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.