Idaho Gov. Little keeps state in Stage 4 over hospitalizations, boasts about recovery

Posted at 2:46 PM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 19:26:29-04

BOISE, Idaho — This article was written by Ruth Brown and Jacob Scholl of the Idaho Statesman.

For the seventh time, Idaho has failed to come out of Stage 4 of Gov. Brad Little’s reopening plan, as the state has not met all of the needed criteria to reopen entirely during the pandemic.

During a news conference Friday — which began with Little touting Idaho’s employment rates, the reopening of schools, the “amazingly robust” budget, the “strong economy” and the use of federal coronavirus funds — the governor said the state’s metrics improved from the previous period once more, but the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations was a sticking point.

“In nearly all the statewide metrics categories we are seeing encouraging trends,” Little said. “However, our COVID hospitalizations statewide remain too high again to move out of Stage 4.”

The state was previously stuck in Stage 4 of his reopening plan, called Idaho Rebounds, because of issues including health care worker infections, hospitalization rates, or rate of positivity and community transmission.

Another area of focus Little discussed Friday didn’t show up in state metrics: coronavirus fatigue. He said that having young people wear masks in school, for instance, has not been much of a problem so far. But there are issues with adults.

“I worry about COVID fatigue, and every time they (adults) get a little good news, they go, ‘Well, we don’t have to do anything anymore,’” Little said. “We cannot let our guard down until we have a vaccine.”

Much of the Friday news conference was spent bragging about Idaho’s economy and how the state has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country. Three Idaho business owners spoke during the press conference, and all showered praise on Little and the state’s recovery plan.

“Idaho truly is the envy of other states. ... Idaho’s the No. 1 state for economic momentum, Idaho’s No. 1 state for fiscal solvency,” Little said, citing various reports.

The governor continues to defer to local public health districts to make decisions for individual counties based on conditions. Ada County remains in Stage 3, per a Central District Health order, but it is now allowing bars to reopen with certain rules in place.

Many counties have implemented mask mandates to reduce community transmission, but Little never implemented a statewide mandate. All counties except Adams, Butte and Franklin have been announced to have community spread.

Idaho’s COVID-19 test positivity percentage has improved greatly, reaching 6.9% on 13,377 tests for the week of Sept. 6-12, according to updated data released Thursday on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s COVID-19 dashboard.

More than 33,800 Idahoans have contracted the virus and 435 people have died of COVID-19. More than 1,500 inmates incarcerated in state prisons have been sickened and two have died, according to the Idaho Department of Correction.

On Tuesday, two children in the South Central Public Health District were the latest in the state to have been diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, or MIS-C, a condition connected to the coronavirus. MIS-C can cause inflammation in the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys and other organs.

Public schools and universities have been putting out repeated announcements regarding infections in schools. On Wednesday, five Treasure Valley schools reported new COVID-19 cases in their buildings. Boise State’s update Friday showed another increase in cases, predominantly in on-campus students.

“Students in other states face months of full remote learning, but most Idaho students are safely back in the classroom,” Little said Friday at the start of his press conference.