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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.

Idaho Health Officials Remove Coronavirus Reporting Form After Public Outcry

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Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
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State officials have taken down an online form that anyone could’ve used to report businesses that weren’t following Gov. Brad Little’s (R) stay-at-home order.

The form on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s website asked for the names and addresses of businesses that continue to operate, even if they weren’t considered “essential” under order. But the site was quickly taken down after an outcry of people who saw it as a shaming tool.

State Rep. Chad Christensen (R-Ammon) said his constituents tipped him off to the form, which he thinks only “compounds fear and anger” at an already tense time. He said it reminds him of something out of repressive regimes in history.

“I kind of liken it to, it’s kind of harsh to say, but Germany and how they were encouraged to tell on their neighbors and having the children tell on their parents when they didn’t follow through with orders,” Christensen said.

He supports social distancing recommendations laid out by the governor, but that peer pressure should be how they’re enforced.

A Department of Health and Welfare spokeswoman says the form was intended to handle a “large amount of complaints” about people not following the stay-at-home order and will no longer be available.

She didn’t respond to questions about who authorized the page or how many complaints they received.

Little's order categorizes businesses and services as either "essential" or "nonessential." Those that have been deemed essential, like hospitals, grocery stores, plumbers, electricians and gun retailers, are allowed to stay open. Nonessential businesses are still allowed to operate, but they must do so remotely.

The declaration remains in effect through April 16, though state officials can extend it.

When asked how he plans to enforce his order, Little said, "Peer pressure from the communities is always our first preference. We will look at each instance case-by-case.”

As of Monday, a governor's spokeswoman said no one has been arrested, though violations have taken place. 

On Sunday, state Rep. Tim Remington (R-Coeur d'Alene), who's also a pastor, held church services, falsly telling his congregation that no one in Idaho had died of the coronavirus. The night before, state officials confirmed five people had died, with more deaths recorded since.

Remington said barring church services violated people's constitutional rights to peacefully assemble.

On Thursday, his church's board of directors was expected to announce they would close their doors and instead move entirely to an online service, according to the Coeur d'Alene Press. Remington told the newspaper he was disappointed, but would follow the board's decision.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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