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.
“If we fail in these mitigation measures, we can expect a second wave of infections to occur,” he added.
It’s not clear which new businesses will be considered “essential,” though Little said flower shops, garden centers and jewelry stores could be included. They will have to offer curbside pickup like restaurants are currently required to do, all while maintaining at least six feet of distance between employees.
Idaho’s stay-at-home order has been in place since March 25, but he said it could be enforced in some form or another into the future.
“We may have to go through phases, loosening and tightening of these measures,” until the development of a vaccine, an effective treatment for COVID-19, or evidence of community immunity and widespread availability of testing, Little said.
Scientists say an effective and safe vaccine isn’t likely to emerge for at least another year. Other medications are in development to lessen the severity some patients get with COVID-19 and those who have recovered from being infected with the coronavirus are donating their blood plasma for experimental infusion treatments across the country.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Idaho officials reported 1,464 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 39 deaths. They also say there are more than 70 probable cases that have yet to be confirmed.
The governor’s extension sets up a potential standoff among top Republican lawmakers in the state.
Earlier this week, House Speaker Scott Bedke and others told Little to hand off control of the state’s response to the seven public health districts in Idaho to avoid a “major, long-lasting economic catastrophe.”
If he doesn’t, Bedke wrote in a letter that “the way you exercise legislative powers now will affect how the Legislature views those powers when it next convenes” in January – signaling a possible attack on his executive power.
When asked if Little was concerned that other elected officials across the state might try to undermine his authority, he said, “I always take their advice and council, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do for the safety of Idaho.”
Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, an influential libertarian lobbying group, told his supporters to openly defy the extended order to kickstart the economy.
“You have to disobey,” Hoffman said during a Facebook Live broadcast Wednesday. “You have to do what’s best for your business, you have to do what’s best for your employees and your customers. You have to do what’s best for your livelihoods and your families.”
“There are more of us than there are of them.”
— Idaho Freedom Foundation (@idahofreedom) April 15, 2020
It’s unclear whether anyone has been prosecuted for breaking Little’s emergency declaration. Multiple accounts of businesses, citizens and even sitting state lawmakers have surfaced, seemingly without any consequences.
Under the declaration, local police, sheriffs and state police are all given the authority to enforce the order, which is a misdemeanor and can be punishable by up to six months in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
Last month, Marissa Morrison Hyer, the governor’s press secretary, told the Coeur d’Alene Press they prefer to talk to people first before taking any kind of law enforcement action.
“That’s not the goal. We’re not trying to fearmonger people into staying home,” she told the newspaper.
In Boise, city officials have specifically told local police to not enforce these restrictions and instead refer them to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare hotline.
The extended order will expire April 30.
Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.
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