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Idaho coronavirus spread linked to infected bar patrons

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Health officials in southwestern Idaho say a coronavirus outbreak linked to patrons at six Boise bars has spread to 34 confirmed cases.

Officials said Tuesday that the infected bar patrons are mostly in their 20s and 30s, but they have also spread the illness to household members.

Besides those six bars, health officials identified three additional Boise bars on Tuesday where infected individuals visited, plus another bar in Meridian.

Russ Duke, director for Central District Health, which covers the area where the bars are located, said the virus is being unintentionally spread by people with no or mild symptoms.

"We must take every measure we can to protect ourselves and others, which means limiting potential exposures, consistently wearing masks and practicing physical distancing," he said in a statement.

In eastern Idaho, officials reported an infected patron spent more than eight hours at a bar in Victor. In west-central Idaho, officials are tracking an outbreak from a grocery store in Washington County.

On Saturday, Idaho moved into the fourth and final stage of Gov. Brad Little's plan to return the state to regular activity during the coronavirus pandemic. Gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed as long as precautions are taken.

Employers can resume unrestricted staffing, but they should protect workers with physical distancing and other measures. Visits to senior living facilities can also resume.

Little acknowledged, however, that the state barely met the criteria for the move into stage 4. The stages were set at roughly two-week intervals, and advancing through them has to do with infection rates and testing. The readiness of the health care system is another factor, including available ventilators and beds in intensive care units.

State officials have been reporting spikes in new infections the last two days, with 78 on Tuesday. But Little and Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen on Tuesday during a statewide discussion hosted by Idaho AARP attributed the spikes to increased testing.

Overall, Idaho's rate of infection among those tested remains below 5%, a key metric in allowing the state to enter into stage 4. But Little has said the state could slip back to more restrictions if the virus spread appears to be getting unmanageable.

Community spread has occurred in more than half of the state's 44 counties. Community spread means it's not clear where a person became infected.

Idaho has 3,540 cases and 88 deaths because of the virus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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Associated Press


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