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Data shows a flat curve for Boise area; how to keep it in check

Saltzer Health

The number crunchers at the New York Times put together a new interactive dashboard that helps give a look at the COVID-19 data by metro area.

The database weaves together CDC, state and Johns Hopkins University data. The Boise metro area includes Ada, Canyon, Boise, Gem, and Owyhee counties.

The curve is flat

The data for the Boise metro area paints a bright picture for the time being. Measures to slow the number of new cases, including social distancing, businesses closures and other moves appear to have helped decrease the number of cases.

In the last two weeks, the Boise metro area had 186 new cases.

Over the past two weeks, there are .25 cases per every 1,000 residents (said another way, there’s one case for every 4,000 residents). That ranks Boise at number 325 for metro areas across the US. The area with the biggest current outbreak – Sioux City, Iowa, had 13.46 cases for every 1,000 residents.

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When looking at deaths, our area recorded five in the past two weeks. That is .01 per 1,000 residents (or 1 for every 100,000 people). That ranks Boise 340th among metros. The area with the highest number of deaths over the last two weeks was New York City, with .42 deaths for every 1,000 people.

Gov. Brad Little and city officials pegged reopening plans to keeping the number of cases flat or declining, as well as hospital capacity and other metrics. Many businesses were allowed to reopen last Friday, with another wave currently slated for next Friday. Because it can take some time for an individual to come up with symptoms and seek a test, it may be some time before we know the impact of reopening actions.

Slow growing

The NYT breakdown also looks at growth in new cases.

“Growth rates are useful measures in epidemics because they tell us whether things are getting better or worse,” the NYT team noted.

In Boise, the number of new cases would double once every 94 days at the current growth rate, putting the area way down the list at 233nd. The area with the fastest growth rate is currently St. Joseph Missouri, with new cases doubling every 3.9 days.

When looking at cumulative data, Boise also fares well. The New York Times data says our area had 1,015 total cases so far. On a per capita basis, that ranks the Boise metro 253rd. With 25 confirmed deaths, Boise ranks 309th.

Keeping the curve flat

Crush the Curve co-founder Dr. Tommy Ahlquist told BoiseDev they tested a total of 164 people through the Boise Rescue Mission earlier this week – including 97 antibody tests and 67 tests for active infections. He said not a single resident came up positive for the novel coronavirus.

“I drew (blood) from probably 15 people myself and didn’t talk to a single person who didn’t say they were sick in the last month,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing none of them came up with positive results.”

Ahlquist said he thinks the current travel restrictions in place, and lack of travel overall in the US, have helped keep the number of cases in our area low.

He called the idea of herd immunity “like going to the moon. It’s not going to happen.” He said protocols like social distancing and testing and contact tracing will be needed to keep the virus in check.

“I think as long as we have aggressive rapid testing and isolation in place when people do decide to travel – that’s going to be the answer.”

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