BOISE — Idaho health officials say people who think they need to be tested for coronavirus should talk to their doctors. But whether someone meets the criteria for the test could depend on which doctor they visit, with some health care centers using strict guidelines and others evaluating each patient on an individual basis.
That has frustrations mounting for Idaho residents, who say time, money and vague instructions are putting too many roadblocks in the way of those seeking tests.
“If somebody is symptomatic and feels like they should be tested, they should talk to their healthcare provider about that,” said Niki Forbing-Orr, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “People are really, really in tune to this, and everybody is super skeptical with whatever they’re told. A decision about testing for anything really has to come from a health care provider.”
In the first weeks of the outbreak, the state labs were only running tests if the patient’s test was authorized by one of the state’s public health agencies. Those agencies only approved tests for people who met the CDC criteria of having traveled or been in close contact with a person who traveled to a country with known coronavirus spread as well as showing specific symptoms of COVID-19.
The state’s policy changed a few days ago, said Forbing-Orr, and now tests can be run without prior authorization from one of Idaho’s public health entities. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is simply urging physicians to use their best judgment when deciding who to test. The number of tests are limited, and so health care providers are trying to ensure they have enough for the sickest and highest-risk patients.
On Monday morning, about 270 people had been tested for COVID-19 statewide, and only five people were confirmed to have the illness caused by the coronavirus. Of those five patients, four have had only mild illness and may not have met the CDC’s testing criteria.
But several medical facilities are still using the CDC guidelines. In smaller offices, different doctors are taking different approaches.
Erin Malone’s mother, a 73-year-old Meridian woman, has been sick since late February. But Malone’s doctor with St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center told her she wouldn’t be given a COVID-19 test unless she is hospitalized, Erin Malone said, even though her mother has other pre-existing health conditions that put her at greater risk of complications.
“She’s not ill enough to be hospitalized. But I’m quite worried that she can’t get the test, given that she’s high risk,” Malone said.
Susan Veltman, a Boise attorney, went to Capital City Medicine for a test when she developed a fever and cough after traveling to California and Nevada. Physicians there initially declined to test her, saying they only had 30 tests for the season and her symptoms could be explained by another illness. But they called her back over the weekend after reviewing their availability of test kids.
“They called me back and asked me to come get tested, so just did,” Veltman said in a text message Sunday. “Results in 2-4 days.”
Mark Snider, a spokesman for St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, said the hospital is following the CDC criteria on whether to administer tests for COVID-19. Those guidelines include if someone recently traveled to a foreign country with widespread coronavirus cases, if they were recently exposed to someone known to have COVID-19, if they are hospitalized with symptoms of COVID-19 or if they are symptomatic and have chronic medical conditions that put them at particularly high risk of poor outcomes.
Meanwhile, the Legislature’s powerful budget committee on Monday unanimously approved $1.3 million requested by Idaho Gov. Brad Little intended to shield state workers from the new coronavirus and keep Idaho’s government operating. The money includes $800,000 for equipment and bandwidth so employees can work from home, and $500,000 for sick and administrative leave.
The committee previously approved $2 million for virus testing and medical supplies, and the state is expecting another $4.5 million in virus-related funding from the federal government.
Alex Adams, Little’s budget chief, said that combined $7.8 million was a pretty good start in fighting the virus, but the situation was rapidly evolving.
“I think it’s premature to speculate what our final needs might be,” he said.
Dozens of schools across the state have closed in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. More than 80,000 people in China have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. More than 65,000 have recovered.
Complete coverage: What Idahoans need to know about the coronavirus
Looking for local information on the Coronavirus? We've got you covered.
Grocery stores across the Magic Valley are adjusting hours to accommodate the most vulnerable residents amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
State officials issued a shelter-in-place order for Blaine County Thursday after 11 more residents and one person from another state tested positive for COVID-19 in the county, bringing the total number of cases there to 17.
Two Twin Falls firefighters and an undisclosed number of Magic Valley Paramedics were exposed to a patient who later tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, the city said in a Thursday statement.
The Magic Valley Arts Council has postponed Art and Soul of the Magic Valley, giving artists more time to register for its 10th annual event.
Health officials have confirmed that a previously announced coronavirus case in Blaine County involves a patient who did not travel out of state and had no contact with any other confirmed COVID-19 patient, making it the first known infection from someone else in Idaho.
In a statement released Thursday all visitor centers at Idaho State Parks are shut down as a precautionary measure to limit propagation of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) – but the parks will remain open to the public.
Twin Falls residents celebrated the end of the World War I with barbecues and parties, oblivious to the risk of spreading the Spanish flu in 1918.
The Cassia County School District is preparing to teach 5,600 student online during the COVID-19 school closures.
Idaho state parks, including City of Rocks National Reserve, Castle Rocks State Park and Thousand Springs, remain open for day use and most camping — but hands-on activities and large group events are discontinued, and premium cabins and picnic shelters closed.
Mini-Cassia school districts started providing free brown bag meals to children under age 18 on Wednesday in response to the COVID-19 school closures.
Lawmakers did not adjourn Wednesday after passing several bills in an attempt to finish earlier than Friday's scheduled deadline.
Two more cases of novel coronavirus reported in south central Idaho, including the first case in Twin Falls County.
A petition drive for a ballot initiative to bring in $170 million for K-12 education by raising Idaho's corporate tax rate and increasing taxes on those making $250,000 per year or more was called off Wednesday due to the coronavirus.
Gov. Brad Little and state health officials issued stricter guidelines on social interaction Wednesday in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Catholic and Episcopalian leaders in Idaho have suspended worship services for their respective denominations until at least Palm Sunday.
Gambling will grind to a halt by Wednesday in all of Nevada, including Jackpot, as the governor issued a sweeping statewide order aimed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Here are five ways you can make staying home less stressful and a little more fun for you and family members of all ages.
Here's some useful info whether you think you might have COVID-19 or not.
A Paul couple brought a moment of cheer to nursing home residents Monday when they dressed as clowns and visited people through their windows.
Pomerelle Mountain Resort will be closed for the season beginning Tuesday afternoon.
DMV services have been suspended and law enforcement agencies will be limiting non-emergency in-person interactions.
Some lawmakers walked away from the legislative session Tuesday over concern for the coronavirus, but Republican leadership is continuing on toward Friday's scheduled finish.
A third case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has been confirmed in Blaine County.
BOISE — The world’s largest gun store, in metro Atlanta, has had lines that are six and eight people deep. A gun store in Los Angeles had line…
A proposal would offer some relief to many Idaho homeowners. But the plan would cost counties millions, and opponents say that money is needed to combat the novel coronavirus locally.
Most Magic Valley senior centers have suspended congregate meals and activities and nursing homes have restricted visitors due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Jerome Joint School District will close all schools Tuesday, a day ahead of its original date, and city offices and the library are also closed.
The Twin Falls Public Library will be closed for about two weeks.
Schools in the Filer School District will not hold classes Tuesday or Wednesday.
Idaho health officials say people who think they need to be tested for coronavirus should talk to their doctors. But whether someone meets the criteria for the test could depend on which doctor they visit.
Indoor city recreation facilities will be closed, including the City Pool, but some outdoor sports events remain scheduled, Twin Falls officials said Monday.
Indoor city recreation facilities will be closed, including the City Pool, but some outdoor sports events remain scheduled, Twin Falls officials said Monday.
The U.S. House early passed a sweeping coronavirus economic aid package to deal with the virus rapidly spreading across the nation. One Idaho congressman voted against the measure. Another voted for it.
The IHSAA suspended all sanctioned sports and activities through April 5, and the NJCAA canceled its winter championships and spring seasons.
Most Magic Valley school districts are closed for at least part of this week.
LAS VEGAS — When the Steed family sat down to dinner recently, their meal was a tribute not just to fine cooking and tasty ingredients, but al…
Buhl's Tim Pond reflects on his four weeks in quarantines.
Senior citizens groups are monitoring the latest news on the new coronavirus and preparing to help some of the community’s most vulnerable members potentially deal with the resulting disease.
There is no official statewide plan to reach Spanish-speaking communities about COVID-19. South Central Public Health District and Magic Valley leaders are working to spread translated information.
The first cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, were confirmed in Idaho in the past two days.
Hospitals around the Magic Valley are prepared to care for potential coronavirus patients and some have restricted visitor access.
HAILEY — Blaine County School District school and facilities will close to the public Monday and remain closed through April 5, the district a…
The South Central Public Health District has confirmed a second coronavirus case in its area, bringing the total number of cases in Idaho to five.
The coronavirus hasn't hurt too many Magic Valley businesses yet, but that could change as the illness spreads.
Idaho has its first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
State officials said the first case of COVID-19, the illness caused from the coronavirus, was in Ada County.
The Buhl School District will join Kimberly schools in canceling Monday classes due to COVID-19.
The Kimberly School District has canceled Monday classes for students so it can prepare for possible long-term closures. Classes are expected to resume Tuesday.
TWIN FALLS — While no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, have been found in Idaho, widespread event cance…
The Twin Falls St. Patrick's Day Parade scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled in response to the COVID-19 virus.
The Boise State women’s basketball team will miss a trip to the NCAA Tournament because of the new coronavirus — and all Boise State athletic competitions have been suspended.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Thursday it is suspending all worship services because of the spread of the coronavirus.
College of Southern Idaho moves classes online to prevent coronavirus spread.
Twin Falls schools announced that parent-teacher conferences will take place over the phone and no more than 250 people will be allowed in any district facility.
The first sporting event cancellations have hit Idaho and include high school and College of Southern Idaho events.
Events include the Falls2Falls Run/Walk on April 18, Spirit of Magic Valley half marathon, 10K, 5K and kids run on May 9, and Cycle Magic Valley on May 16.
The Sun Valley Film Festival announced Thursday that it was canceling its festival, which was scheduled for March 18-22.
Twin Falls city officials posted on Facebook seeking to ease concerns about the city's water system.
TWIN FALLS — City officials said no special events the city is involved with have been canceled and City Hall remains open as of Thursday afternoon.
The annual Share Your Heart Ball, a fundraiser for Camp Rainbow Gold, has been postponed.
Event organizers said ticket sales for the Lights and Lasers show at Shoshone Falls were being postponed due to fears about large gatherings.
The Big Sky Conference has canceled the remaining games in its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.
An Idaho business has been added to a federal health-fraud list for selling unapproved coronavirus treatments.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that it will hold a major conference in April that features speeches by top leaders without any attendees because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Treefort Music Festival will be postponed until September, organizers said Wednesday.
The health district based in Twin Falls has opened an information hotline for people to call with concerns about COVID-19.
The Idaho Legislature’s budget committee has approved $2 million in emergency funding to help Idaho prepare and respond to a potential outbreak from the novel coronavirus.
Four Boise State University international students are in self-isolation for 14 days after clearing a health screening for coronavirus COVID-19 upon their arrival to Seattle on Monday.
Although the risk of coronavirus (COVID19) is currently low in Idaho, now is the time to plan and prepare.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Three convention groups have canceled their conferences in Orlando, Florida, the most visited U.S. destination, but indiv…
Here's the latest on what state health officials are saying about the coronavirus in Idaho.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday that he is asking the Legislature to free up funds to respond to a potential coronavirus outbreak in Idaho.
All of the IHSAA's activities, including the boys state basketball tournament, will continue as planned through the threat of coronavirus.
“This is something that we plan and train for on a regular basis,” said Josh Jensen, SCPHD Public Health Preparedness Program Manager.
Buhl resident Tim Pond is back in the U.S., but still has to stay away from other people after a coronavirus outbreak on the cruise he was on.
The coronavirus, which has caused more than 550 reported deaths in China and has infected more than 24,000 people worldwide, has affected Idaho’s biggest technology company.
Buhl resident Tim Pond has kept touch with the rest of the world on Facebook after his cruise ship was quarantined Feb. 5 due to the coronavirus.
County commissioners encouraged people to read the whole order, which is attached to this story.
Patients with serious illness from the new coronavirus are pouring into the hospital in rural Blaine County — and it’s a situation that could become dire if the public fails to follow a statewide isolation order, an emergency room physician has warned.
Nearly 33,000 Idaho residents filed for unemployment benefits last week as the Idaho economy continues shedding jobs at a record rate because of the coronavirus, state officials said Thursday.
Even with many people stuck at home, home maintenance businesses are seeing service calls drop by two-thirds or more.
St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center will resume some limited services Friday after widespread COVID-19 cases in Blaine County, including some in health care workers, forced the hospital to close all but emergency services on March 20.
In this Series
- 90 updates
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.