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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Coronavirus In Idaho: Resources & News From April 12 - 18

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Boise State Public Radio is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. This blog contains information from April 12 - 18 on closures, cancellations & news regarding the coronavirus in Idaho.

Looking for resources? Click here. If you have specific questions or a story about the virus in Idaho, please submit them here.

If you are searching for information on something specific, we recommend using the "find" function (CTRL+F on a PC, COMMAND+F on a Mac).

Member support is what makes local COVID-19 reporting possible. Support this coverage here.

COVID-19 Cases Up Slightly Saturday, Additional Death in Ada County

April 18 - 5:10 p.m.

State health officials announced 11 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Idaho Saturday, and one additional death. The statewide total of confirmed cases is now 1,577, with an additional 91 probable cases. The 44th COVID-related death in the state was the tenth in Ada County.

Two hundred healthcare workers are now listed as having contracted the virus, though state data does not include how many are confirmed versus probable cases.

Central and South Central health districts, which cover 72% of Idaho's confirmed cases, do not publicly update numbers on weekends.

 

 

St. Luke's Hospitals Aim to Expand In-House COVID-19 Testing

April 18 - 4:30 p.m.

St. Luke's Health System says it's looking to significantly increase its testing capacity for the coronavirus by using its own labs. Hospital officials say they want facilities in Boise, Twin Falls, Ketchum, Meridian, Nampa and McCall to start using their own labs starting Monday. But that depends on getting particular testing supplies that have been in high demand. Officials say testing capacity could surpass 1,700 a day by May. St. Luke's also says that drive-up screening tents will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week in Boise, Meridian and Twin Falls starting Monday. Officials say volume is greater in the morning.

 

 

Hundreds Protest Idaho Stay-Home Order

April 17 - 6:15 p.m.

Several hundred protesters took to the steps of the Idaho Capitol Friday to push back on Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order.

Many of the protesters were carrying firearms alongside signs ridiculing Gov. Little, saying his actions are unconstitutional. Few were wearing masks and almost no one was practicing the six-foot physical distancing medical experts say is key to bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

Read the full story here.

Two More Deaths, As Confirmed Cases Hover Around 1,500

April 17 - 5:30 p.m. 

Two more deaths in Idaho were reported Friday for a total of 43 deaths. Nez Perce County is reporting the most deaths at 11, followed by Twin Falls and Ada Counties at nine each and Canyon and Blaine Counties at five each. The total of lab confirmed cases stands at 1,566. For the week, the daily number of new confirmed cases has been 11 or less each day. There are 187 healthcare workers who have gotten the disease since the first case was diagnosed on March 13. 

 

Construction To Resume In Blaine County

April 17 - 5:15 p.m. 

Blaine County and some of its cities are letting go of some of their tighter local restrictions that have been in place on top of the state’s stay-at-home order. 

 

These more stringent restrictions, put in place in late March, included bans on construction and landscaping, restrictions on traveling outside of the county and constraints on hotels and short-term rentals. At the time, the county had the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the state and one of the highest per-capita rates of coronavirus in the country. 

 

Now, local leaders are pointing to data shared by medical professionals, which they say indicates the community has flattened the curve, and that construction work should be able to continue again. 

 

Sun Valley let its local restrictions expire last week; Blaine County let them lapse for unincorporated areas on Thursday. On Friday, Ketchum, Bellevue and Hailey decided to let construction begin again next week. However, the rules governing travel outside the county and prohibiting hotels and rentals from housing visitors are still in place in Ketchum and Bellevue. 

 

All the jurisdictions have outlined guidelines on social distancing rules for construction sites, but only Ketchum is calling these guidelines “requirements,” and said not following them is a punishable offense.

 

High School Activities Association Officially Cancels Spring Season

April 17 - 11:30 a.m.

The Idaho High School Activities Association announced the official cancellation of spring 2020 sports and activities. In a statement posted on its website, the organization said it became clear that organized activities were not possible within safety guidelines set by the Governor and State Board of Education. Athletes and coaches across the state had previously hoped at least a partial spring season could be salvaged if schools returned to session April 20. Idaho's spring sports are baseball & softball, tennis, golf and track and field. Many state championship meets for activities such as debate, cheer and music had already been canceled.

Brad Little: Idaho "In-Sync" with Trump Guidelines to Reopen Economy

April 16 - 9:30 p.m. 

Idaho Governor Brad Little said he plans to re-open the local economy once there is a sustained downward trend in new virus cases, and getting there will require increased testing. In a statement this afternoon, Little called the plan “in-sync” with President Trump’s direction for reopening the economy.  Thursday evening on Idaho Public Television, the governor said he’s counting on Idahoans to do the right thing in order to reopen many businesses.

“If the people of Idaho continue with their good practices, we'll be able to do that," the Governor said. "But if they're a restaurant or a bar or a hair salon, where that contact is much closer, it's going to be a while before we get there. But we intend to get there sooner rather than later, we hope.”
 
The Governor said testing expansion has been slowed by a lack of protective equipment for workers conducting tests, and a mistake getting correct parts for rapid-result testing machines.
Idaho is also competing with other states, the military and federal government for testing supplies.

Idaho Reports 22 New COVID-19 Cases, No Additional Deaths

 April 16 - 5:04 p.m.

Idaho reported 22 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 1,528. There have been 41 COVID-19 deaths in the state; no additional deaths were reported on Thursday.

Unemployment In Idaho Falls 40% Still More Than 18,000 Claims Last Week

April 16 - 10:01 a.m.

Statistics from the Idaho Department of Labor show 18,531 new initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week-ending April 11. Nearly 96,000 unemployed Idahoans have filed initial claims since mid-March. Service industry, accommodations and retail continue to be the hardest-hit industries, accounting for more than 31% of the statewide total last week, and 29% of total claims over the last four weeks.

 

Read the full story here.

Blaine County Releases New "Epi" Curve: Here's What It Shows

April 16 - 7:32 a.m.

The South Central Public Health District released an epidemiological curve this week for Blaine County. It maps when people who've tested positive for coronavirus first started feeling sick.

 

“Epi” curves reveal time periods of when people might’ve been exposed and provide a general sense of the outbreak’s spread in a community.

 

Read the full story here.

Idaho Reports Two More Deaths, 43 Additional Confirmed Cases Of COVID-19

April 15 - 5:48 p.m.

Idaho's number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 1,507 Wednesday, with 41 deaths, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

That represents an increase of 43 cases and two deaths. It's the largest one-day rise since Friday.

An additional death was reported in Nez Perce County, bringing the total there to 10, the most of any county in the state. Nez Perce is in north central Idaho and includes Lewiston and The Nez Perce Indian Reservation. It has roughly 40,000 people, while Ada County, with nearly half a million people, has had nine deaths.

Ada County has the most confirmed cases in the state, with 540, while Blaine County, with just 23,000 people, is next with 463 confirmed cases.

Key Moments Of COVID-19 In Idaho

April 15 - 12:25 p.m.

The global pandemic that began in Wuhan, China in December 2019 quickly migrated to hundreds of nations, including the United States. This timeline tracks the key moments of the outbreak in Idaho, as well as the reactions of Idaho state and local officials.

The threat of COVID-19 has led to event cancellations, stay-at-home orders and unemployment claims. It has also grimly lead to deaths across the state.

See the timeline here.

Idaho Stay At Home Order Extended. Gov. Brad Little Adds New Businesses To 'Essential' List

April 15 - 11:30 a.m.

Gov. Brad Little (R) is extending his stay-at-home order for the entire state of Idaho for another two weeks, though some previously closed businesses will be allowed to open during that time.

 

All visitors coming from out of state will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days, unless they’re healthcare workers or others who work for similar “essential” businesses. Those who might live in another state, but work in Idaho are also exempt from this policy.

 

“We are far from achieving herd immunity to this virus, but the statewide order is working, your efforts are working,” Little said.

 

Read the full story here.

What To Know About Coronavirus Antibody Testing In Idaho

April 15 - 7:54 a.m.

As local leaders weigh opening up the economy again, antibody tests for coronavirus are getting a lot of attention. That’s because they can detect whether someone has had the virus in the past, and may be okay to return to work, potentially without being contagious.

 

But there’s still a lot of scientific research to be done before antibody tests for coronavirus can provide sufficient information for policy makers.

 

Read the full story here.

'Flattening The Curve' Means Lengthier Restrictions, Scientists Say

April 15 - 7:33 a.m.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus seems to be leveling off in recent days as Gov. Brad Little weighs how to open Idaho’s economy back up. But scientists say that could take longer than you think.

 

If you’ve been reading or listening to the news about coronavirus, you’ve probably heard this advice over and over again.

“The best move right now is just to do everything that we possibly can to slow it down,” said Katelyn Gostic, a postdoc research fellow at University of Chicago.

Read the full story here.

Idaho Reports 11 More Cases of COVID-19, Nez Perce County Deaths Reach 9

April 14, 7:54 p.m.

Idaho reported 11 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tusday, bringing the state's total to 1,464. That includes 39 deaths.

Nez Perce County in north central Idaho, is tied with Ada County for the most COVID-19 deaths, with 9, despite having ony about 40,000 people. In contrast, Ada County has nearly half a million people.

Nez Perce County includes Lewiston and the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.

 

Top Idaho House Republicans Tell Gov. Little To Hand Over Control Of Coronavirus Response

April 14 - 4:45 p.m.

Some of Idaho’s top Republican lawmakers are now calling on Gov. Brad Little (R) to give up control of the coronavirus response to local officials.

 

In a letter sent to Little on Sunday obtained by Boise State Public Radio, House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) urged him to hand over the reins of the state’s coronavirus approach to each of Idaho’s seven public health districts.

 

Calling the governor’s order “ill advised,” Bedke wrote there’s “an acceptable level of risk” between a blanket stay-at-home order and completely dismissing the virus to avoid a “major, long-lasting economic catastrophe.

 

Read the full story here.

 

Idaho Dept. of Labor Says $600 Unemployment Payments Will Begin in April

April 14 - 10:47 a.m.

The Idaho Department of Labor announced Tuesday that the additional $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits from the CARES Act will start being distributed to Idaho claimants by the end of April.

 

The agency said the more than 77,000 initial claims it received over three weeks ending April 4 are more than the department processed in all of 2019, and there is a tremendous backlog of processing work. Monday, the agency announced it had already processed nearly $18 million in unemployment benefits to around 30,000 Idahoans.

 

The $600 weekly federal payments will be retroactive to claims starting as early as March 29, and is set to end July 25, 2020. People in the process of filing or who are already receiving benefits already qualify for the extra payments and do not need to take further action.

 

Self-employed, contract workers and others typically ineligible for unemployment benefits are expected to qualify for the "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance" program.

 

Department of Labor Director Jani Reiver says significant system upgrades are needed to process those payments and the state does not expect that program to begin distributing funds before May. Once it begins, those payments are expected to be retroactive to February 2 and could last through December 26, 2020.

 

 

Boise Schools Begin 'Phase II' Of Online Learning

April 14 - 9:15 a.m.

It’s been exactly one month since many students in Idaho set foot in their classrooms. The abrupt close meant teachers didn’t get to say goodbye to students, and certainly had no lesson plans ready for online classrooms.

 

 Loren Bailey teaches third grade in the Boise School District. She said there wasn't much guidance when the district closed March 15.

"Just treat it like snow days, basically, and we'll figure it out later," she said.

Read the full story here.

To Be Or Not To Be? Idaho Shakespeare Festival Weighs Options For 2020 Season

April 14 - 8:44 a.m.

The Idaho Shakespeare Festival spent years to attain some amount of financial sustainability in case of a crisis. But ISF officials never thought it would be a global pandemic.

"I was truly expecting the first big emergency would be wildfires," said ISF Producing Artistic Director Charlie Fee. "This is unlike anything we've experienced."

Read the full story.

Idaho Reports Additional Coronavirus Cases And Fatalities Monday

April 13 - 5:07 p.m.

Following zero additional deaths reported Sunday, the number of COVID-19 fatalities in Idaho is now 33. On Monday Ada County reported three additional deaths, Twin Falls County reported two and New Perce County reported one. 

 

An additional 27 cases of the virus were reported statewide, bringing the lab-confirmed total in Idaho to 1,453. Ada County accounts for 12 of the new cases while neighboring Canyon County recorded six. Blaine County — the Idaho county hardest hit by the coronavirus so far — reported just four new confirmed cases and no additional deaths Monday.

19 New COVID-19 Cases Sunday, No Additional Fatalities

April 12 - 5:20 p.m.

Idaho's statewide count of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew by 19 Sunday, with no additional fatalities. No new cases were reported from Ada or Blaine counties, though their weekend reporting may be delayed until Monday. There are 1,426 total cases in Idaho.
Canyon and Twin Falls counties accounted for 13 of the 19 new cases Sunday, with increases of nine and four respectively. One Hundred Fifty-three healthcare workers have the virus, a number which did not increase Sunday. Healthcare workers make up more than ten percent of total cases in Idaho.

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