Mask Illustration

Clark County, the least populated county in Idaho, confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, winnowing down the number of counties that haven’t seen any COVID-19 cases to just two.

Eastern Idaho Public Health District reported the Clark County resident is a male in his 50s who contracted the virus through community transmission, which means the source of infection isn’t clear and can’t be traced to a confirmed case.

Clark’s new case leaves Lewis and Butte counties as the remaining two Idaho counties without any confirmed or probable cases throughout the pandemic. Clark’s population is much smaller and more spread out geographically than both of those counties.

Census estimates from 2019 say Clark County has 845 residents, spread across its 1,764 square miles, putting the county’s population density at 0.6 residents per square mile. Butte County, in southeastern Idaho, has more land, twice the population density, at 1.3 residents per square mile, and more than three times Clark’s residents, at almost 2,600 residents, according to Census estimates. Lewis, in north central Idaho, is the most populous of the three. It has 3,838 residents across roughly 479 square miles, or, 8 residents per square mile, Census estimates show.

In a news release, the health district also reported that COVID-19 cases and associated hospitalizations of eastern Idaho residents have risen fourfold since July 1. Then, the region had just 42 active cases and three hospitalizations. Now, it has 198 active cases and 14 hospitalizations, as of Tuesday afternoon.

Active cases are defined as cases that are currently infectious. Recovered cases are not included in this count. Only residents of eastern Idaho are included in the health district’s count of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The region has 44 staffed intensive care unit beds between three large hospitals and 520 total hospital beds.

The health district’s latest reporting, which was accurate on July 20, says hospital and ICU capacity isn’t yet pushed to the brink, but more beds are being used.

Doctors at larger hospitals here warned last week that they are seeing more and more people admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 during a busier-than-average trauma season. If COVID-19 hospitalizations worsen, hospitals might reduce or suspend non-emergent, medically necessary procedures to preserve hospital resources.

Eastern Idaho Public Health’s board of county representatives is monitoring the pandemic based on a four-tier regional response plan. The region remains in the minimal risk level, according to metrics for hospital capacity and the rate of active cases.

Teton and Bonneville counties recently eclipsed the threshold for moderate risk level. The health district mandated masks and banned events of more than 150 people in both counties. Cases in Teton have subsided significantly since the health district issued the legal mandate there two weeks ago, the time frame at which the health district says they’ll review the legal mandate.

Eastern Idaho Public Health’s board is set to meet 7 a.m. Thursday as part of its new weekly meetings during the pandemic.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.