Idaho has reached record-high numbers of new coronavirus cases this week, and Gov. Brad Little announced Thursday that the state must stay in Stage 4 of his reopening plan and urged people to behave responsibly to slow the spread.
Little continued to encourage Idahoans to wear masks and practice social distancing, rather than moving to implement stricter measures statewide.
He said the state’s rising coronavirus case count has a direct impact on Idaho’s health care facilities and workers. The more coronavirus patients hospitalized, the less access others will have for essential medical treatment.
“Our personal actions work better to slow the spread of coronavirus than anything else,” Little said. “This is about personal responsibility, something Idaho is all about.”
The decision to stay in Stage 4 was made after Idaho failed to meet the state’s full reopening criteria for the ninth time in a row. On Tuesday, Idaho marked a record-high number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases in Idaho, with 714 in one day.
The state also broke records for new total cases, including probables, with 798, and the seven-day case average rose to 627.7. Idaho’s seven public health districts reported a combined 474 new confirmed and 154 new probable cases on Wednesday, for a total of 628.
Even as Idaho remains in Stage 4, nearly every business is allowed to be open, and there are almost no mandatory restrictions on how they should operate, per the governor’s Idaho Rebounds plan.
Ada County will remain in Stage 3, per order of Central District Health. Ada County does have some restrictions on how bars and nightclubs may operate, and has put a limit on gatherings of more than 50 people. Ada County’s caseload has been increasing to the point where it’s averaging more than 100 cases per day.
Despite the increase in cases and White House recommendations, Little has not implemented a statewide mask mandate or other stricter measures. Some cities and counties, however, have mandated mask wearing in communities, including in Eastern Idaho, which is experiencing a big outbreak despite its modest population.
Little has repeatedly said he will defer decisions on masks and other requirements to local health districts.
Hospitals and health care providers have been outspoken about their concerns this week with coronavirus hospitalization rates. Additionally, health care workers said they have seen children and young people hospitalized with serious complications because of COVID-19.
On Oct. 6, the state reported its youngest yet COVID-19 fatality — a Twin Falls County man in his 20s.
HOT SPOTS AND SCHOOLS
Ada County school districts were placed back into the “red” zone by Central District Health this week, because of a high risk of community transmission.
The West Ada School District, Boise School District, Emmett School District and many others have struggled to stop the spread of the virus while providing some in-person learning. Two trustees, one in West Ada and one in Boise, have resigned amid controversial disputes about how to move forward.
Little has repeatedly said that he hopes schools will open for in-person learning, if possible. The decision to open is left to the school districts, not the state.
Hots pots can still be found in Idaho outside of populated areas. Madison County, home to Brigham Young University-Idaho, has documented a major rise in coronavirus cases.
On Monday, BYU-I administrators had to send a message out to students, after learning some students might be intentionally trying to get coronavirus so they could sell their plasma with the COVID-19 antibody. The statement said students who do this “will be immediately suspended from the university and may be permanently dismissed.”
Kimberly Link, communicable disease control manager for Central District Health, said at a Tuesday board meeting that schools have seen infection and community transmission, and said the virus has affected more than 35 schools. About 25 percent of the cases in Ada County have no known source of transmission.
During the meeting, the Board of Health stated that most cases coming out of Boise State University were students contracting the virus at social gatherings, not while in class.