This article was originally published by Nicole Blanchard from the Idaho Statesman.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday criticized Idaho officials’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic after announcing tighter restrictions in his own state in response to a flood of new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Inslee ordered shutdowns for restaurants, bars and other businesses and indoor gatherings during the Sunday news conference. The order takes effect Tuesday and will last for four weeks. Like Idaho, Washington has recently recorded a series of record numbers of new daily cases, with 2,309 cases reported Sunday, according to the Seattle Times.
Spokane County, which borders Idaho’s Kootenai County, has seen one of the largest spikes in the state in recent weeks.
During the Sunday news conference, Spokesman-Review politics reporter Jim Camden asked Inslee what sort of enforcement to expect in areas like Spokane that border other states with fewer restrictions.
“I have urged the Idaho leaders to show some leadership,” Inslee responded. “One of the reasons we have such jammed up hospitals in Spokane is because Idaho, frankly, has not done some of the things we’ve found successful.”
Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Friday declined to institute a statewide face mask mandate, instead returning the state to a modified version of its Stage 2 reopening plan limiting public and private gatherings to 10 people or fewer.
Previous restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses were not reinstated with the rollback. Little also activated 100 members of the Idaho National Guard to aid local hospitals, which have said for weeks that they are understaffed and nearing capacity.
Inslee also said he was “stunned” to hear that Kootenai County, home to Coeur d’Alene, planned to send COVID-19 patients to Oregon or Washington hospitals “at the same week ... that they’d abandoned their mask requirement.” The Panhandle Health District board rescinded an existing mask mandate on Oct. 23.
“That’s just irresponsible,” Inslee said. “I don’t know what else to say about it. We hope Idaho, over time, will be more aggressive and responsible, frankly, to reduce the burden on the Spokane medical system. That’s a hope.”
It’s not the first time Inslee has criticized Idaho’s response to the pandemic. Last month, he again pointed to issues at the Spokane/Kootenai county border and decried the removal of the Kootenai County mask mandate.
In April, Inslee said Idaho had been left out of a “Western States Pact” to combat coronavirus (which included Washington, Oregon and California) because Little and other leaders were “having a little more difficult time in Idaho building a consensus about the next step.”