Idaho Legislature’s COVID-19 outbreak infected at least 14, spread to household members

People in four of Idaho’s seven health regions got infected

By: - April 8, 2021 4:30 am
Idaho House of Representatives

The Idaho House of Representatives in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The COVID-19 cluster that formed last month in the Idaho Capitol building infected at least 14 people who live in four different regions of the state.

The Idaho Legislature went into recess March 19 after several legislators and employees tested positive in the span of a week and a half. Earlier in the legislative session, six people who worked in the statehouse were infected, including two senators, according to the Idaho Press.

The latest infections bring the total to at least 20 people infected since the Legislature’s session began in January.

Idaho Press on Tuesday reported that one House staffer is currently hospitalized for COVID-19. “I pray especially today for John and for you to touch his life as he’s in the hospital,” House Chaplain Tom Dougherty said in the opening prayer, according to the newspaper.

There are no requirements for legislators or staff to wear face coverings in the Statehouse building. There also is no requirement that cases in the Statehouse are disclosed to the public.

Legislators reconvened this week, following their quarantine in their home districts. Many of the lawmakers continued not to follow public health guidelines for masks and distancing as they worked in the Capitol.

Idaho legislators talk without masks or distancing
Sen. Patti Anne Lodge (R-Caldwell) talks with Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa) and Sen. Steven Thayn (R-Emmett) on the Senate floor April 6, their first day back in session following a coronavirus outbreak at the Capitol building. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Idaho’s public health departments have linked 11 “primary” cases and three “secondary” cases to the Statehouse coronavirus outbreak in March. The secondary cases were among people who lived with those infected in the outbreak.

Southwest District Health had the most cases, with four residents in the region infected due to workplace exposure at the Capitol, a spokesperson for the health department said. The department’s contact tracing identified an additional three cases among household members of those infected at the Capitol. (Four of the six House members known to have contracted the virus in the outbreak live in that region.)

Two of the health districts in Idaho’s northernmost regions said they didn’t yet know of any cases of COVID-19 linked to the statehouse outbreak. One health district wasn’t keeping track of cases from the outbreak.

Here’s the breakdown, based on case investigations by Idaho’s public health districts:

  • District 1 (Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone counties): No cases identified.
  • District 2 (Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties): No cases identified.
  • District 3 (Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette and Washington counties): Four primary cases, three secondary cases identified.
  • District 4 (Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties): Five primary cases, no secondary cases identified.
  • District 5 (Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties): One primary case, no secondary cases identified.
  • District 6 (Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Butte, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida and Power counties): One primary case, no secondary cases identified.
  • District 7 (Bonneville, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton counties): No data provided. The health district did not track cases associated with the outbreak.

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Dutton hails from Twin Falls. She attended college at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, radio journalism, data visualization and much more.

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