Most Idaho residents live in areas with mask recommendation

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — About 89% of Idaho residents live in communities where officials say masks should be worn again.

The Post Register reports Wednesday that 27 of Idaho’s 44 counties have substantial to high transmission of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.

The CDC cited new information about the variant’s ability to spread among vaccinated people. In Idaho, the CDC says 13 counties with more than a million people have substantial levels of community transmission.

“A month ago, we were seeing one to two cases a day and now we are seeing 25 to 30 cases a day,” said Southeastern Idaho Public Health Director Maggie Mann. “We are not going in the direction that we were hoping. We don’t want to see what we saw last year, and the only way to get back to normal is to follow CDC’s guidance.”

The CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.

Central District Health also said it supports the CDC’s updated recommendation for masks. Central District Health oversees Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties.

“Under the updated guidance, all four of the counties served by CDH currently fall under substantial or high transmission, therefore, CDH recommends that individuals in these communities wear a mask in indoor public settings, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccine status,” the health district said in a news release.

The city of Boise on Wednesday started requiring masks indoors at its city-owned facilities.

“This step is necessary to protect our team and our residents who rely on the services the city provides,” said Courtney Washburn, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s chief of staff.

In a statement, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials said they were concerned about rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“We hope Idahoans will choose to protect themselves and those around them by getting vaccinated and following the recommended guidance,” said state health department spokesman Zachary Clark. “Only if more people get vaccinated will we be able to stay ahead of changes in the virus.”

Idaho has the sixth-lowest vaccination rate, with only about 46% of all eligible Idahoans being fully vaccinated, compared to 56% of all eligible Americans. Everyone age 12 and up is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

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