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Gov. Little rolls Idaho back to modified Stage 2, mobilizes national guard

Gov. Little holds COVID-19 press conference Nov 13

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) – Idaho Governor Brad Little on Friday mobilized the Idaho National Guard and restricted group sizes to 10 or fewer to fight the coronavirus as infections and deaths surge across the state.

Governor Little during the remotely-held news conference said the moves are needed because healthcare facilities are within weeks of having to ration care due to workers out sick with COVID-19.

You can watch the press conference below.

The restrictions are a return to stage 2 of his plan to reopen the economy while slowing the spread of the virus. But in the latest version, bars, nightclubs and restaurants can continue operating, but customers must be seated.

Under the new statewide Stage 2 public health order:

  • Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. This does not pertain to religious or political expression. Physical distancing is required for all gatherings.
  • At-risk Idahoans should self-isolate.
  • All Idahoans are encouraged to telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
  • Masks continue to be required at long-term care facilities.
  • Bars, nightclubs, and restaurants continue to operate with seating only.

Governor Little said this does not mean Idaho's economy is on lockdown. Businesses and churches will remain open under the new statewide public health order. However, all individuals and businesses should continue following recommended protocols to minimize transmission, including wearing masks when around others not in your household.

Little is ordering 100 troops to help with various tasks, potentially including mobile testing support, medical facility decontamination and COVID-19 screenings.

Major General Michael J. Garshak, the Adjutant General of Idaho and the Commanding General of the Idaho National Guard, said the troops will help free up civilian medical workers.

Stage 2 requires masks at long-term care facilities, recommends that at-risk residents self-isolate, and encourages businesses to allow employees to work from home.

Through Thursday, Idaho had more than 78,000 infections and 749 deaths, Johns Hopkins University reported. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports that the positivity rate among those being tested is nearly 17%, well about the 5% or less state officials would like to see.

The virus is now so widespread that the state's court system has stopped holding jury trials, a school district in heavily populated southwestern Idaho is returning to remote learning and medical care providers are struggling to even answer all the phone calls from would-be patients.

There is also concern that rising fears could prevent consumers from entering the marketplace, causing unemployment numbers to start ticking up.

Little didn't impose a statewide mask mandate, something healthcare officials have called for but an issue that has become political and faces fierce opposition among some in red-state Idaho, particularly in Little's own party.

Little said he will try to persuade more people to wear masks with a public information campaign featuring people who have been infected and healthcare workers who deal with the sick and dying.

On Friday, a young women using oxygen also spoke during the news conference. Amelia Cortez said she was eight months pregnant when she went to the hospital because of the virus. She said she ended up in the intensive care unit for three weeks, where she gave birth to her daughter.

She said young adults like to go out with friends but tend to get careless.

"I think we as young adults need to activate and wake up," Cortez said. "COVID is real, and it's here to attack your lungs."

State epidemiologist Christine Hahn said a new treatment for the illness and a potential vaccine with limited availability expected early next year offer hope, but meanwhile wearing a mask to avoid catching or spreading the virus is necessary.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus Coverage

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