Coronavirus: Idaho medical group calls on Gov. Little to issue statewide mask mandate

Posted at 3:02 PM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 17:02:45-05

This article was written by Jacob Scholl of the Idaho Statesman.

Members of the State of Idaho Disaster Medical Advisory Committee, or SIDMAC, are calling on Gov. Brad Little to enact a statewide mandate on masks as a way to combat the massive coronavirus spread.

The committee — which released the letter on Tuesday night — is made up of health professionals who define the state’s standards of care in the event Idaho’s health care capacity hits its limit. In the past few months, SIDMAC has developed plans on what hospitals will do if coronavirus cases exceeds the state’s health care abilities.

“Unfortunately, our systems are being overwhelmed,” the letter reads.

SIDMAC members wrote that the state is very close to meeting the guidelines needed for crisis implementation. Members have appreciated Little’s repeated calls for Idahoans to wear masks, but say the governor’s actions haven’t been enough.

The group called a potential mandate the state’s only hope for avoiding disaster.

“We would suggest that we are at, or rapidly approaching these trigger points statewide,” the letter reads. “We therefore are writing to implore you to help us avoid a full statewide crisis and require a statewide mask mandate.”

Numerous health care providers from around Idaho signed the letter, including doctors working in hospitals or hospital groups like St. Luke’s, Saint Alphonsus, the Boise VA, Kootenai Health, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, Bingham Healthcare and Portneuf Medical Center.

Little has repeatedly stressed to Idahoans to wear masks, though he has often said that mask mandates are best left to counties and local health districts to implement.

“We realize instituting a masking mandate will incur the wrath of some portions of the population, but evidence suggests over 75% of the population would be supportive, and the small radical fringe who would oppose such a mandate have no right to endanger the rest of the population,” the letter states.

In response to a startling rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations around the state, Little announced he would move Idaho backward into Stage 3 of its reopening plan on Oct. 26.


The Gem State hit yet another grim milestone on Tuesday, adding 1,181 new coronavirus cases to the state’s totals — 828 confirmed and 353 probable cases. That total is the most new cases reported in a single day, breaking the previous record of 1,111 new cases reported on Oct. 23.

Idaho’s seven health districts tallied 828 confirmed cases, which is tied for the third-most confirmed case count since the coronavirus outbreak began. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 353 probable cases.

Officials also reported seven new coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, bringing the state’s death total to 648.

Kootenai County reported a pair of deaths, while single deaths were found in Bannock, Bingham, Canyon, Lincoln and Payette. The Bingham County death was said to be a man in his 80s, and the Bannock County death was said to be a woman in her 70s, according to Southeastern Idaho Public Health.

Ada County accounted for 233 new confirmed cases and 65 probable cases on Tuesday. Its confirmed case count is now up to 15,662, and its seven-day rolling average for new cases is now at 142.2, the highest number it has been since August. Canyon County added 68 new confirmed cases, bringing its total to 9,787.

Numerous Idaho counties reported double-digit case totals on Tuesday, including Bannock (18 new), Bonneville (72), Cassia (25), Elmore (12), Idaho (24), Jerome (19), Kootenai (58), Latah (11), Lemhi (10), Madison (30), Minidoka (12), Nez Perce (71) and Twin Falls (61).

The Department of Health and Welfare reports that 392,973 people have been tested for the coronavirus as of Tuesday, with about 14.9% of tests returning positive.

All counties except Adams have reported community spread.

Every one of Idaho’s 44 counties have confirmed cases of the coronavirus: Ada 15,662, Adams 61, Bannock 1,971, Bear Lake 74, Benewah 187, Bingham 1,316, Blaine 885, Boise 72, Bonner 483, Bonneville 3,834, Boundary 96, Butte 90, Camas 36, Canyon 9,787, Caribou 229, Cassia 1,408, Clark 33, Clearwater 149, Custer 89, Elmore 431, Franklin 333, Fremont 486, Gem 398, Gooding 525, Idaho 406, Jefferson 850, Jerome 1,094, Kootenai 4,353, Latah 998, Lemhi 280, Lewis 92, Lincoln 215, Madison 2,481, Minidoka 1,182, Nez Perce 1,006, Oneida 67, Owyhee 376, Payette 1,028, Power 324, Shoshone 291, Teton 283, Twin Falls 3,986, Valley 128, Washington 442.