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Employees at Jalapeños Bar and Grill wear masks as they work on July 31 in Nampa. Southwest District Health, which oversees six counties including Canyon County, issued an advisory Nov. 20 urging all residents to wear masks when interacting with non-household members. 

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CALDWELL — Southwest District Health issued a health advisory for its six-county area on Friday, aiming to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

The health district is advising people to wear a face covering at all times around anyone who is not a member of their household, to work from home if possible, to minimize non-essential travel and suspend visits to congregate living facilities. The advisory covers Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette and Washington counties.

The advisory asks people to avoid social gatherings, including among family members who do not live in your household, and to follow Gov. Brad Little's modified Stage 2 order that caps gatherings at 10 people. It also recommends contact sports for youth and adults be put on hold.

The district issued the advisory because of the surge of COVID cases and the strain on hospitals. Public health investigators and contact tracers are having a hard time keeping up with the backlog of cases, the district said Friday.

The advisory is not a mandate but an advisement to the community about the significant public health risk of the novel coronavirus, according to SWDH. The advisory includes strong recommendations for action.

"The advisory aims to ensure healthcare capacity so our loved ones and neighbors can continue to access the routine, urgent, and emergency medical care they need as well as the public health capacity to ensure close contacts are notified of their exposure, rapid testing is available to our high-risk populations, and once available, vaccine can be distributed and administered," the district said in a press release.

The advisory will remain in effect until the counties all move out of the red alert category and into the orange alert category. As of Thursday, all counties in the health district expect Adams are in the red category.

CANYON COUNTY 

Canyon County has a raising rate of 6.31 daily new cases per 10,000 people, along with outbreaks and transmission in multiple schools, according to the health district. Fourteen congregate living facilities are seeing cluster outbreaks.

Only two-thirds of COVID-19 cases have reported knowing where they were exposed, which points to sustained community spread. District health investigators are continuing to see cases exposed through social and community gatherings.

Canyon County's positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has continued to increase to 17.83%, which is concerning SWDH epidemiologists.

As of Thursday, Canyon County has 265 school staff and students in quarantine and 70 school staff and students in isolation. Those in quarantine have been identified as a close contact of a positive case and are being asked to stay home for 14 days to monitor for symptoms. Those in isolation are currently positive for COVID-19 and are asked to isolate away from others for a minimum of 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.