NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Idaho Governor Brad Little issues “stay at home” order for Gem Staters

It’s time for anoth­er install­ment of of our spe­cial series COVID-19 Update, bring­ing you the lat­est devel­op­ments on the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break that pub­lic health author­i­ties here and through­out the coun­try are work­ing dili­gent­ly to mit­i­gate.

Unlike some of the non­sense that is unfor­tu­nate­ly cir­cu­lat­ing on social media, all the infor­ma­tion you’ll find here is accu­rate and based on sound sci­ence.

Idaho joins the “stay at home” party

Ida­ho Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle, a Repub­li­can, has come under fierce and with­er­ing fire in recent days for an inad­e­quate response to the nov­el coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic.

Now he is scram­bling to respond. The state’s news­pa­per of record, The Ida­ho States­man, which is based in Boise, pub­lished a blis­ter­ing edi­to­r­i­al yes­ter­day denounc­ing Lit­tle for not ris­ing to the moment. The news­pa­per opined:

With few con­firmed cas­es and a seem­ing­ly low spread of COVID-19, Ida­ho had a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty to lead the nation and take proac­tive pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures to “flat­ten the curve” and stem the rise in cas­es in this cri­sis. We could have been a mod­el for how to han­dle the out­break and have the fewest cas­es of coro­n­avirus in the coun­try.

Instead, after Little’s Mon­day press con­fer­ence, we appear, yet again, to head to the bot­tom of the list.

We were hope­ful that Lit­tle would announce more strin­gent mea­sures, such as those being tak­en by oth­er states’ gov­er­nors, includ­ing Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton right next door, and by Boise May­or Lau­ren McLean.

The edi­to­r­i­al went on:

We were look­ing for a strong response from the gov­er­nor, but what did we get instead? The dead­line to file tax­es got pushed back.

We were sore­ly dis­ap­point­ed and, frankly, are con­cerned that such an unem­phat­ic response will lead to a full-blown out­break in Ida­ho, result­ing in an over­whelmed health care sys­tem and, ulti­mate­ly, what could have been pre­ventable deaths.

To date, Little’s posi­tion has been a typ­i­cal Ida­ho approach to deal­ing with a prob­lem. God for­bid that we should use the heavy hand of gov­ern­ment to stop this thing.

And make no mis­take, that’s what it’s going to take. It’s time for force­ful and aggres­sive lead­er­ship from the gov­er­nor. Leav­ing it up to indi­vid­ual cities, coun­ties and dis­tricts is woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate.

Colum­nist Michael Deeds con­curred:

I don’t know about you, Ida­ho, but I real­ly hate look­ing like a los­er.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the past twen­ty-four hours have made it dif­fi­cult to feel like we’re “win­ning” in the Gem State.

Wal­letHub, a per­son­al finance web­site that cre­ates met­rics-based state rank­ings of every­thing, just pumped out a coro­n­avirus study that will make Ida­hoans want to hide under their beds — or, at least, nev­er leave the house.

That came rough­ly twelve hours after Rachel Mad­dow blast­ed Ida­ho Gov. Brad Little’s lais­sez-faire COVID-19 poli­cies on her MSNBC show.

The evi­dence clear­ly shows that Lit­tle’s lit­tle response has not been work­ing for Ida­ho. Bow­ing to the crit­i­cism and the calls for more strin­gent action, Lit­tle has belat­ed­ly joined his col­leagues Jay Inslee and Kate Brown in putting his state under a “stay at home” order. He announced his deci­sion today at Gowen Field.

“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 sys­tem,” Gov­er­nor Lit­tle said in a news release sent to NPI. “And from the begin­ning, I stat­ed my com­mit­ment to mak­ing deci­sions about our response to coro­n­avirus based on sci­ence. With con­firmed com­mu­ni­ty trans­mis­sion of coro­n­avirus now occur­ring in Idaho’s most pop­u­lat­ed areas, we need to take strong mea­sures to ensure our health­care facil­i­ties are not over­bur­dened. I am fol­low­ing the guid­ance of our pub­lic health experts and issu­ing a statewide stay-home order effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly.”

“Our health­care and 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 this statewide stay-home order,” Gov­er­nor Lit­tle added.

The order is effec­tive for twen­ty-one days. Its actu­al text was not avail­able at press time (it’s not fin­ished yet), but we will update this post when it is.

Idaho "Stay Home" COVID-19 order

A poster cre­at­ed by the State of Ida­ho instruct­ing Gem States to stay home

Idaho’s COVID-19 case count has gone up

Just like every oth­er state in the coun­try, Ida­ho is see­ing more COVID-19 cas­es. The total num­ber of cas­es has now reached sev­en­ty-three. There have not been any deaths yet. 1,089 peo­ple have been test­ed through the state lab­o­ra­to­ry sys­tem and sev­en hun­dred and nine­ty eight have been test­ed through com­mer­cial labs. Here’s a break­down of where the cas­es are:

Pub­lic Health Dis­trictCoun­tyCas­esDeaths
Pan­han­dle Health Dis­trictKoote­nai30
South­west Dis­trict HealthCanyon50
Cen­tral Dis­trict HealthAda220
Val­ley10
South Cen­tral Pub­lic Health Dis­trictBlaine330
Cas­sia1
Twin Falls10
South­east­ern Ida­ho Pub­lic HealthBan­nock20
Bing­ham10
East­ern Ida­ho Pub­lic HealthMadi­son20
Teton20
TOTAL730

Most of the region now under stay-at-home orders

With today’s action by Lit­tle, the three states that NPI pri­mar­i­ly serves are now all under stay-at-home orders. Adja­cent juris­dic­tions are mov­ing clos­er towards hav­ing sim­i­lar poli­cies in place. Alas­ka is requir­ing peo­ple who trav­el to The Last Fron­tier to self-quar­an­tine. Mon­tana has shut schools and man­dat­ed phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing. Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has also urged his con­stituents (includ­ing British Columbians and Alber­tans) to go home and stay there.

Alaska sees first death

Alas­ka isn’t yet under a “stay at home” order (Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Mike Dun­leavy has inde­fen­si­bly neglect­ed to issue one), but that could be chang­ing soon.

Com­mu­ni­ty trans­mis­sion of the nov­el coro­n­avirus has already hap­pened with­in the state, the nation’s largest by area. And one Alaskan has now died from COVID-19… although in Wash­ing­ton State, not Alas­ka.

The first Alaskan killed by COVID-19 was in Wash­ing­ton state when they con­tract­ed the ill­ness and died, state offi­cials announced Tues­day evening as they stepped up their call for Alaskans to avoid close con­tact with oth­ers.

Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief med­ical offi­cer, said in a media brief­ing Tues­day that the indi­vid­ual had been in Wash­ing­ton for some time and that offi­cials believe that’s where they con­tract­ed COVID-19, the ill­ness caused by the new coro­n­avirus. The death is con­sid­ered an Alas­ka case under fed­er­al rules, she said.

Mean­while, Alaska’s pub­lic employ­ees, who are grave­ly con­cerned about their own health, are suing Dun­leavy for keep­ing state offices open. And many Alaskans have report­ed not being able to get test­ed for COVID-19.

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