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Idaho’s increase in COVID-19 cases is “alarming,” Gov. Brad Little said Tuesday, as he called on Idahoans to wear face masks, practice physical distancing, stay home when sick and take other measures to prevent spreading the virus. “It is alarming the way the numbers are going up,” Little said during his weekly statewide call-in with AARP Idaho. “But when we got to full opening, in essence almost every business in the state that wanted to open could open. We knew this was going to happen. We were hoping it would happen to a lesser degree than it is happening now.”

Little said he’s concerned for the health and safety of Idahoans, and said, “If people are concerned about their safety, they won’t participate in the economy and then we won’t have the rebound.” Additionally, he said, “If our numbers are too high, it will jeopardize our kids going back to school, whether it’s K-12 or college this fall.”

As of Tuesday at 5 p.m., Idaho had notched 6,117 coronavirus infections statewide, 365 of them new on Tuesday — a new record. That followed triple-digit increases in cases every day since June 22. So far, 92 Idahoans have died from COVID-19; 509 health care workers have been infected; and 330 Idahoans have been hospitalized for the virus.

Ada County reported 129 new cases Tuesday for a total to date of 2,169; Canyon County reported 93 new cases for a total of 856.

The state also estimates that 4,233 Idahoans have recovered from COVID-19, but that’s based on the assumption that anyone who hasn’t died within 30 days of initial infection has recovered. That’s no longer certain, now that researchers have learned that some patients suffer with the virus for months. During an earlier AARP call-in, former House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, called in and revealed that she is one of those patients dubbed “long-haulers,” having tested positive for COVID-19 in March and again in June, remaining ill the whole time.

A June 4 article in The Atlantic detailed the phenomenon, which has since been widely reported.

Niki Forbing-Orr, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, said Tuesday, “We don’t have any plans to change the definition for recovered at this point, because 30 days is the accepted average. We know that some people get better in a week, and some in 6 weeks or even longer, but 30 days is the accepted average.”

During Tuesday’s call, Little and Health & Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen fielded questions on mask-wearing, safety, and upcoming summer events. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (no paywall on coronavirus stories, so access is free, but please consider subscribing to support us!), or pick up Wednesday's print edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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