When the South Central Public Health District updates its website Thursday with the latest COVID-19 risk levels for each county, Blaine won’t be among them.

That’s because Blaine County uses a different system to assess risk than the regional public health district does, and the district wants to avoid confusion.

The Blaine County commissioners voted at the start of the month to use guidelines created by the Harvard Global Health Institute, which have a lower threshold for determining risk than the system used by the South Central Public Health District. While the Health District may deem the county to be at the “green” risk level, for example—indicating the lowest level of risk—the new Blaine County system may put the county in the “yellow” category, which suggests a moderate level of risk, based on the same numbers.

That decision was made for several reasons, Commissioner Angenie McCleary said.

For one, Blaine County—which experienced a significant outbreak at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—has seen a relatively low number of new cases in recent months compared to other counties in the Health District.

“We have low-enough cases that I think we still have the ability in Blaine County to be proactive and keep our cases low,” McCleary said.

The decision was also made in light of Blaine County’s relatively high number of visitors and second-home owners, and the county wants to be extra-cautious with so many visitors, McCleary said.

The city of Hailey voted last week to adopt Blaine County’s system. In total, about 10 local entities, including the Blaine County School District, Sun Valley Community School and Sun Valley Economic Development, are assessing risk based on the Harvard Global Health Institute’s guidelines.

As of Monday evening, the South Central Public Health District counts 612 confirmed and 27 probable cases of the virus in Blaine County—opposed to the 610 confirmed and 28 probable counted by the state Department of Health and Welfare. Either way, it marked a double-digit increase over the weekend. On Friday, both agencies recorded 600 confirmed and 24 probable cases. Health officials are currently monitoring 19 confirmed and eight probable active cases in the county.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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