Governor Brad Little issued a statewide order asking all residents to “stay at home.” The move comes after at least one case of “community spread” showed up in Ada County. It takes effect immediately.
It follows an action Little took last week in Blaine County after community spread started in the Ketchum area.
Now, the order will move statewide, and fundamentally change life and society in Idaho for at least 21 days. Though the phrasing is different, a governor’s spokesperson says this is the same as the earlier “shelter in place” order issued in Blaine Co.
“Idaho is now in a new stage,” Little said. “With confirmed community transmission now occurring in Idaho’s most densely populated areas… following the guidance of our public health officials, I will be ordering a statewide stay at home order for the state of Idaho.”
Little made the announcement at the emergency response center at Gowen Field. The order goes along with an “extreme emergency” declaration.
“Public safety is always our top priority,” Little said. “My fellow Idahoans, we will get through this together, as long as we take the appropriate precautions.”
What the order means
The order will stay in place for at least 21 days, and will be reviewed. Since Friday, March 13th when the state reported its first confirmed case, the number quickly zoomed over 100.
Some businesses deemed essential will remain open – including grocery stores and medical services. The dining rooms of all restaurants statewide must close, but drive-thru and curbside pickup can remain open.
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Non-essential businesses must close, according to the order. Businesses deemed essential in prior language for Blaine County are listed below.
The order encourages citizens to stop ‘discretionary’ travel, to work from home, and to stay at least six feet apart.
Little said they don’t have any mechanisms in place if citizens don’t follow the order. He said compliance is high in places like Boise where measures are in place.
“Our goal isn’t to arrest people, it’s to keep Idahoans safe,” Little said.
Change of course
Earlier this week at a news conference, Little advocated for a more incremental approach.
“I’m committed to making all decisions based upon science,” he said – noting that Idaho is a rural, spread-out state. “Science… and common sense tells us that a decision in one part of the state may not make sense in all parts of the state.”
Little came under sharp criticism in recent days, including an Idaho Statesman editorial and a segment on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.
Idaho joins more than a dozen other states with some type of stay at home order. More than 175 million Americans currently live in areas with the orders in place.
Community spread means health officials can’t trace exactly where a COVID-19 patient got the virus. In the other Ada County cases so far, the health district could trace it back to another known patient, or from travel.
Community spread was first detected in Blaine County last week. Some of the Ada County cases were then linked to Blaine Co. by travel. The state asked anyone who had traveled to Blaine County since March 8th to self-quarantine in their homes.
“Our healthcare officials are putting themselves in harm’s way, and we owe it to them to do our part,” Little said.
Officials across the country worked to “flatten the curve,” delaying a project crush of COVID-19 patients who could strain the medical system. In Blaine County, St. Luke’s Health System had to put a temporary hold on all non-emergency services at the hospital near Ketchum.
Idaho State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said during the news conference that 7.7 percent of COVID-19 tests have come back positive. She said there are more – but due to lack of testing capability to date, the state has not been able to identify them all.
House leadership echoes Little
“Many of you have done an incredible job of following social distancing guidelines, but the spread has become communal and that means we must take even stronger precautions,” said Speaker of the House Scott Bedke.
“I worry about the fabric of our society if some of those businesses go under, and I’m afraid that’s going to happen. But we’re trying to limit that,” Little said.
BoiseDev is told the order will mirror the one in place in Blaine County. Here’s what’s outlined as essential in that order.