A surge in new coronavirus cases is keeping most of Idaho locked into Stage 4 of Gov. Brad Little’s reopening plan for at least another couple of weeks.
Wednesday recorded the largest single day total of 223 confirmed cases since the state announced its first case March 13. Idaho now has confirmed 4,166 cases since then, along with 90 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.
While the entire state will remain in Phase 4, which is the final phase in Little’s plan, the seven public health districts will ultimately have the authority to move parts of the state backwards through previous phases.
On Wednesday, Central District Health mandated that bars and large venues close in Ada County, as well as limited gatherings to fewer than 50 people, after an exponential surge in cases was discovered there.
Little said he took statewide action at the beginning of the pandemic because he was worried about overloading the health care system.
“We’ve got more health care, we’ve got more telehealth, we’ve got more PPE, we’ve got a lot of the things in place and so when we got up to that area to where we weren’t as worried about it, then we said it’d be regional,” he said.
The seven public health districts, city mayors, Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Little are the only ones, the governor said, who have the ability to impose further restrictions.
It’s unclear how conflicts among those public officials would be handled. Little said problems should be worked out, but that he wouldn’t rule out stepping in if he had to.
Idaho is still far below its goal of testing more than 160,000 people per week. Last week, about 11,000 tests were processed.
But Little said they are ramping up capacity and will not follow President Trump’s recent comments to slow down testing.
The governor continued to preach good hygiene and social distancing as ways of corralling the virus. But his other recommendation, wearing a face covering while in public and enclosed spaces, has not been heeded by many Idahoans.
Even still, Little said more people were starting to wear them, though he would not mandate a statewide policy forcing someone to do so.
“We got a way to go, but mandatory masks just don’t make any sense for a lot of Idaho,” he said, specifically mentioning those who work outdoors or by themselves.
Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.
Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio
Member support is what makes local COVID-19 reporting possible. Support this coverage here.