Twelve days after Idaho confirmed its first case of coronavirus, Gov. Brad Little (R) issued a statewide stay-at-home order to try to halt the disease from spreading further than it already has.
Calling it an “extreme emergency declaration,” Little said, “Idaho has entered a new stage” in responding to the global pandemic.
As of Wednesday evening, the state had at least 123 confirmed cases. The move comes after Idaho health officials detected the virus spreading through communities in Ada and Blaine Counties, as well as in the panhandle in the northern part of the state.
Little said that “nonessential” businesses would be closed during this time period. That includes bars, gyms, and hair and nail salons, among others.
Restaurants would still be allowed to sell food to customers who pick it up, or offer delivery services.
No gatherings of any size will be allowed outside of the home, including religious gatherings and other faith-based services. People are urged to only leave to get groceries, pick up medications, go to the doctor, or other "essential" activities.
“This extreme emergency declaration allows the state to more effectively increase healthcare capacity, take steps to reduce the slow of the spread so that as few Idahoans as possible are affected and the healthcare system is not overwhelmed,” Little said.
But the order doesn’t seem to have any kind of penalty for not complying with it and the governor didn’t say whether someone could be cited or arrested for doing so. County sheriffs, local police chiefs, and Idaho State Police are all required to enforce these restrictions.
“Peer pressure from the communities is always our first preference,” he said. “We will look at each instance case-by-case.”
Idaho is now one of at least 19 states with some kind of statewide shelter-in-place declaration, affecting more than half of the population of the United States, according to the New York Times.
Last Thursday, Little issued a lockdown order for Blaine County residents, which has, so far, been the epicenter of Idaho’s outbreak.
Earlier this week, the Idaho State Board of Education closed all public schools to students for one month. Faculty and staff will be creating distance learning plans and providing essential services, like meals for low-income students.
Little’s order Wednesday will last for at least 21 days, but he and his team will make a decision on whether to extend it in two weeks.
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Read the transcript of Gov. Brad Little’s announcement below:
GOV. BRAD LITTLE: Thank you, General [Michael J. Garshak] and thanks to all the men or women in the Guard that are here that are helping us today and are going to help us in the future. Idaho's situation with coronavirus is changing rapidly, as you all know. We've been preparing for the coronavirus in Idaho since January. As the governor alluded to, the first case was then confirmed in the United States. Idaho is one of the last five states to have a confirmed case of the coronavirus. And even before we had a confirmed case, I issued an emergency declaration to help us prepare. I have been in daily contact with our state's public health experts who have been guiding me in my decisions about the state's response. The experts tell us that the timing of decisions are extremely important. Every state is in a different stage. I am confident that the decisions that we have made in Idaho over the past few weeks and months have been solidly grounded in the advice of our epidemiologists and our infectious disease experts.
That said, Idaho is now in a new stage with confirmed community transmission now occurring in Idaho's most densely populated areas. I want to provide an update for our citizens on our latest steps to respond to this emergency. Following the guidance of our public health experts, today I will be issuing a statewide stay-home order for all of Idaho. From the get-go, our focus has been to slow the spread of coronavirus to protect our most vulnerable citizens and preserve capacity in our healthcare care system.
The stay home order orders citizens to self, self isolate at home, if you can, not just if you're sick. If you are high risk, avoid leaving home. You can leave home to obtain essential services as defined in the order. Employers that do not provide essential services as defined in the order must take all steps necessary for employees to work remotely from home. Grocery stores, medical facilities and essential businesses will remain open. Restaurants across the state are being ordered to close, dine-in, but drive-thru, pickup and delivery will still be available. And I encourage all of us to support our neighborhood establishments. Nonessential businesses and services will close their physical locations. This includes bars, nightclubs, gyms, recreational facilities and others not included in the essential category as defined in the order. People must limit public transit unless to provide or obtain essential services. People must limit all discretionary travel. People must limit all nonessential gatherings of any number of individuals outside the household. When you go for a walk, run or bike ride or other outdoor recreation to your home, stay six feet apart from individuals who are not part of your household. Our healthcare, public safety workers are putting themselves in harm's way to respond to the coronavirus emergency. And we owe it to them to do our part by following the statewide stay-home order. The statewide stay-home order is in effect immediately and will remain in effect for 21 days.
Our public health officials and I will consider whether to renew the order in a couple of weeks. We're going to work with local officials and businesses throughout the day today to finalize the wording in the stay-home order. And it will be available later today for all to read on coronavirus.idaho.gov website. In addition, given the spread of coronavirus in Idaho today, I am signing a new extreme emergency declaration. Our state and our country are going through difficult times. The state and me, as your governor, need to be able to react quickly and effectively to combat the growing emergency to protect you and our neighbors. This extreme emergency declaration allows the state to more effectively increase healthcare capacity,take steps to reduce the slow of the spread,so that as few Idahoans as possible are affected and the healthcare system is not overwhelmed and and take rapid and decisive steps to improve the condition of Idahoans whose job and incomes are being harmed by the pandemic. I will exercise these powers carefully and honestly and always with the goal of protecting the citizens of Idaho for both the near term and the long term.
The Idaho National Guard is preparing to support civil authorities and local jurisdictions during any state or local emergency, including the coronavirus emergency, we find ourselves in right now. Public safety is always our top priority. The past couple of weeks we have been focused on mission planning and identifying the necessary logistics required to accomplish those missions. Potential mission packages could include mobile testing support, transporting commodities, providing facilities, tents and other equipment. The personnel I activated at the Guard are preparing to stand up a joint task force if requested. A joint task force can range from a size of 20 to 200 to even 1000, depending upon the need. The Idaho Office of Emergency Management, a part of the Idaho military division, is the key emergency response planner and coordinator for Interagency Preparedness in Idaho. Brad Richy, director of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management, is part of my Coronavirus Working Group and has been in direct coordination with me for weeks.
Today, we just finished a meeting with the Idaho Office of Emergency Management and they are engaging with our health professionals and I am pleased with their decisions and vigor in responding to the coronavirus in the state of Idaho. Upon order for me, the Idaho Office of Emergency Management will coordinate with the Idaho National Guard to provide support to civil authorities.
This is yet another step we are taking to be able to provide a swift response as coronavirus cases continue to increase across the state. They stand ready to serve. Again, I want Idahoans to know that every step of the way we have been making sound decisions about Idaho's response to coronavirus based on the best advice of our public health experts. I would like to reiterate, we are doing everything at the appropriate time to prepare Idaho for further spread of coronavirus. We're all in this together and we all must do our part. I am proud of Idaho and the way we support and love our neighbors. My fellow Idahoans, we will get through this together as long as we all play an active part in fighting the spread of coronavirus. With that, I will sign the emergency declaration and take questions.
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