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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.

Utah Declares Statewide Mask Mandate As Hospitals Approach Critical Capacity

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On Sunday, Utah’s Republican governor Gary Herbert declared a new state of emergency and a statewide mask mandate. The move came as hospitals approached critical capacity and the state’s positive coronavirus test rate hovered around 17%.

“We cannot afford to debate this issue any longer,” Herbert said. “Individual freedom is certainly important, and it is our rule of law that protects that freedom.”

But Idaho’s Governor Brad Little continues to avoid a statewide approach, leaving the choice to individual jurisdictions. On Monday, Little’s office released a statement saying “your personal actions are the one and only thing that will defend our veterans from succumbing to the enemy virus.”

Dr. David Pate of the Idaho Coronavirus Task Force fears Idaho could be headed in Utah’s direction.

“The big challenge that many Idaho hospitals are having today is not having enough beds, it’s having enough staff,” Pate said.

Idaho reached a new all-time high of 1,146 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday. Some Idaho hospitals have been so strained they’ve had to send patients to other facilities.

Dr. Pate says there’s no question about it: Masks work to stop the spread.

“At the end of the day, it's all going to be about whether we follow the advice either voluntarily or under a mandate,” Pate said.

He also encourages Idahoans to get a flu shot as soon as possible and avoid Thanksgiving travel.

Copyright Boise State Public Radio 2020

Audrey Regan is a newsroom intern at Boise State Public Radio. Audrey is returning to their hometown of Boise after completing a year of national service with AmeriCorps St. Louis and graduating from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. During that time, Audrey worked for both their university's student newspaper and radio station, and now they're excited to fuse those skills and to reconnect with the Boise community along the way.