BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho Gov. Brad Little met with state school officials Sunday to consider possible closures as the number of Idaho residents confirmed to have coronavirus jumped to five.
Little asked public school districts to not make a decision on closing schools until after the meeting. The teacher's union, the Idaho Education Association, urged the governor to close the schools for at least three weeks in a statement released Sunday morning.
Idaho public health officials announced the state's first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease called by the novel coronavirus, on Friday. By Saturday evening the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare had confirmed that four more people had tested positive for the illness.
They included two in Ada County, one in Blaine County, one in eastern Idaho's Teton County and one in the south-central Idaho public health district. Health officials did not say where in the district the patient lives, but it includes Twin Falls, Cassia, Jerome, Minidoka, Gooding, Lincoln, Camas and Blaine counties.
All but one of the patients are under the age of 60 and recovering at home, public health officials said. The woman in the south-central district is over the age of 70 and is being treated at a hospital.
Several public schools across the state, including some in Blaine County and the northern Idaho city of Coeur d'Alene, announced closures last week. Boise State University students will attend classes online for the remainder of the semester, and the Idaho Steelheads hockey team announced that the rest of its season is canceled.
The Idaho Supreme Court suspended in-person court appearances except for emergencies last week, and it asked people to postpone or reschedule civil and criminal cases when possible. The Ada County Courthouse banned most people from the building unless they work there or are otherwise directly involved with cases, such as attorneys, witnesses and victim support workers.
Idaho Education Association president Layne McInelly urged the governor to close schools statewide in an effort to slow the spread of the virus so that hospitals aren't overwhelmed by a huge number of patients at once. The practice is often called "flattening the curve," a reference to graphs that show how many patients could be expected to become critically ill at one time.
"Education leaders are uniquely positioned to help 'flatten the curve' and stave off a massive health crisis," McInnelly said in a prepared statement. "Recognizing that school buildings often hold more than 250 people, five days a week, we must close our schools immediately for the health of our communities, students and staff."