Idaho Governor Brad Little took additional steps Friday as the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the state continues to rise.
“We are in the middle of an unprecedented and dangerous time in our state’s history,” Little said. “Thousands of our fellow Idahoans of all ages have been hospitalized and suffered immensely because of COVID.”
The governor said he would call up members of the Idaho National Guard to provide support to Idaho’s hospitals. He also moved the state back to a modified Stage Two in the reopening plan.
“The national guard is already ready to assist with emergencies and natural disasters,” he said. “These heroes will now help us respond to coronavirus.”
One-hundred guardsmen will be called up to help with healthcare. Guard members will help with tasks like screening, mobile testing and logistical support.
“Our Coronavirus response has been protecting our loved ones from this damaging disease and protecting our healthcare system,” he said. “Our healthcare facilities will discontinue all but the most essential services, and it impacts all of us, whether we have COVID or not.”
Little said hospitals will have to start rationing care in coming weeks.
“This is unacceptable, and more must be done.”
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Move back to modified Stage Two
The state will move back to a modified Stage Two. This means:
- Gatherings of more than 10 people, indoors or outdoors are prohibited – except for schools, religious gatherings, businesses or political events.
- Those who are sick should self isolate.
- Telework is encouraged.
- Bars, nightclubs, and restaurants can operate, but only if patrons are seated.
“This does not mean Idaho’s economy is on lockdown. However, all individuals and businesses should follow protocols to minimize transmission.”
Little said businesses do not need to close. When asked how the gathering limits apply to businesses, he didn’t provide clarity beyond saying businesses could remain open.
The governor did not implement a statewide mask mandate, again saying he preferred local officials to make those decisions. Officials in many areas of the state with strained resources declined to do so, and some elected officials rolled back previous mandates. He said Idahoans should limit contact with others and stick to physical distancing.
“It spreads by spraying droplets from your mouths to others,” Little said. “Masks not only protect others but protect you. It’s a fact. Half of Idaho is under a mask order, but we are seeing issues with compliance. This comes down to personal responsibility. Please wear a mask when you are not around someone in your household.”
Little said Idahoans should not gather in groups outside of their household for Thanksgiving celebrations.
He said that transmission is not happening in classrooms, and said schools will remain open. He said closing schools can mean healtchare workers would have to stay home with children instead of working.
Two weeks ago, Little moved the state back to Stage Three, and implemented some limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Deaths, hospitalizations rise
The moves come as the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 continues to rise. According to data compiled by the New York Times, the 7-day rolling average of the number of deaths per day stands at 11 – the highest of any point since the pandemic began impacting Idaho in March.
Just more than half of all the people who have died in Idaho since the pandemic started were residents of nursing homes. Through October 24th, about 1,000 more Idahoans died than in an average year – about 12% higher than usual. That includes deaths of any cause.
The strain on Idaho’s healthcare resources continues to rise, with the highest number of COVID-positive patients in hospitals since the pandemic began. Yesterday, St. Luke’s Health System, the state’s largest, said it would pause some types of elective surgeries starting next week. The move impacts St. Luke’s facilities in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, and Twin Falls.