COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — COVID-19 is still taking a toll in North Idaho.
The Panhandle Health District reported 391 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, as well as seven more deaths attributed to the virus, bringing the PHD's virus-related fatalities to 982.
It also reported 18 districtwide hospitalizations, up from 11 the previous week, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press.
Kootenai County’s positivity rate for the virus fell for the first time in six weeks, dipping slightly to 21.8% based on PCR tests for the week ending July 16, according to the state’s COVID-19 Dashboard. It was 24% the previous week.
The PHD’s also declined, going to 21.1% based on 1,063 PCR tests.
Statewide hospitalization of those suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 was 185 on July 18. Three months ago, there were 31 COVID-19 hospitalizations.
While Kootenai County’s fully vaccinated rate of those age 5 and older remains low at 42%, one new study found that could be improved with improved trust in medical providers.
University of Idaho researchers recently found that building trust in public health authorities will be critical to managing the next pandemic, according to a press release.
“The primary driver of how people act is what they perceive as the health risk to themselves,” said Benjamin Ridenhour, lead author of the research and a U of I mathematics professor who developed a COVID-19 model for the state of Idaho. “One way that people determine that is by what the government is telling them. So, it’s important to have clear messaging.”
Rural residents trusted government less and perceived COVID-19 as less of a health risk, the study found.
It also confirmed that pandemic-related behavior changes often align with people’s political ideology.
Conservatives were less likely to adhere to mask mandates, vaccination and closures, while liberals adhered to protective measures, the release said.
The best way to increase the number of people adopting pandemic safety protocols is to cultivate trust in public health authorities, Ridenhour said.
The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.