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The raw numbers may pale compared to major cities, but Blaine County had the nation’s highest concentration of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nation yesterday, according to data compiled by the New York Times.

And, its calculation is an underestimate.

As of Friday morning, the community the paper calls Hailey, Idaho—which corresponds with the entirety of Blaine County—had 2.82 cases of the disease per thousand people, assuming 82 cases and 29,000 people. New York City’s metro area—the largest epicenter of the American outbreak—had 43,016 cases spread across 20 million people, or 2.15 cases per thousand.

That number has since increased. On Tuesday morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that infection rates in the city have risen to 43,139. His statement limited analysis from the full 20 million-person metropolitan area to just the 8 million people living in the city. This new estimation puts New York City’s infection rate at around 5.14.

The Times’ estimation of Blaine County’s population at 29,000 people is inaccurate, though. Sun Valley Economic Development put the number at 22,212 in its 2019 profile of the region. The U.S. Census Bureau says 23,021 as of July 1, 2019, its most recent count. And here, as everywhere, case-counts continue to rise. Friday morning’s 82 cases grew to 187 by Tuesday morning, according to the South Central Public Health District.

That data puts Blaine County’s caseload between 8.12 and 8.42 per 1,000 residents, far surpassing the cases per thousand residents infected in the original epicenter, Wuhan, China.

In areas this small, these sorts of analyses can fluctuate wildly with little input. And, as the Times freely admits, variations in the rate and availability of testing makes accurate comparisons difficult. Given the limitations and time-lag of testing, there’s every reason to believe there are more cases out there than there are lab-confirmed tests in every corner of the country.

So, what do you do with that information? “Take this seriously,” according to a group of eight St. Luke’s Wood River emergency physicians. Self-isolate and abide by the shelter-in-place order designed to stem the spread of the disease.

“We want you to know, given the community spread, that you should not wait for the test or test result,” Drs. Terry O’Connor, Malie Kopplin, Deb Robertson, Jim Torres, Brock Bemis, Keith Sivertson, Terry Ahern and Brent Russell wrote in a letter to the Idaho Mountain Express published Wednesday. “There are measures you can take now to protect yourself, your family, friends, neighbors and way of life. Self-isolate. Don’t leave the Wood River Valley to recreate elsewhere. It’s well known that we have a very high rate of infection; 5B plates are not going to be welcomed outside of Blaine County. Moab and Twin Falls don’t need our virus. Stay home. Save lives.”

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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