Gov. Little COVID-19 briefing (Monday)

Gov. Brad Little addresses COVID-19 concerns during a press conference at the Idaho State Capitol, Monday, March 23, 2020, two days before issuing a statewide stay-home order.

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Idaho Gov. Brad Little has immediately ordered all Idaho residents to remain at home except for necessary activities and directed non-essential businesses close for the next three weeks in order to slow the spread of coronavirus.

With confirmed community transmission of coronavirus occurring in Idaho’s most populated area, the Treasure Valley, Little announced the 21-day “extreme emergency declaration” following advice from public health experts during a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Idaho Military Division State Headquarters on Gowen Field in Boise.

”Idaho is now in a new stage,” Little said. “With confirmed community transmission now occurring in Idaho’s most densely populated areas ... I will be ordering a statewide stay-at-home order for the entire state of Idaho.”

While community spread has not been detected in East Idaho and confirmed COVID-19 infections haven’t reached more than 10, public health officials believe the virus is much more widespread than what the numbers would suggest. Statewide, public health officials have confirmed 92 cases of COVID-19 infections in all Idaho health districts as of Wednesday morning after testing 1,887 people, according to Southeastern Idaho District Health Director Maggie Mann.

“We are seeing this virus now across our state and this has occurred in less than a two week time frame,” Mann said during a Wednesday morning briefing.

The governor’s order is not a full lockdown but demands Idaho’s 1.75 million residents to self-isolate not just if they are sick, stop public gatherings of any number of people and cease discretionary travel, directs all non-essential businesses to halt operations at physical locations, encourages employees to work from home and asks people to maintain at least 6 feet from non-immediate household members.

Non-essential businesses to close include bars, nightclubs, gyms and recreation facilities and those that can remain open include medical facilities, grocery and convenience stores, emergency services, farms, laundromats, newspapers and media services. Restaurants can remain open but can only offer drive-through, carry-out and delivery options.

“If your car breaks down and you can’t get to the grocery store, fixing that car is an essential service,” Little said.

{p dir=”ltr”}The order does not seem to have any kind of enforcement mechanism and Little did not say whether people could be criminally charged or arrested for violations. Little said the Idaho National Guard has been readied to support civil authorities with commodity transportation and assist local jurisdictions during the current coronavirus emergency.

{p dir=”ltr”}The order to shelter-in-place comes on the heels of public health officials confirming the first case of community spread coronavirus in Ada County Tuesday night, the Gem State’s most populous region of roughly 450,000 residents and where the state reported its first coronavirus case on March 13.

{p dir=”ltr”}Public health officials define contagion transmission levels as community spread when a person contracts an illness — like COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus — and has had no known contact with other infected persons or has not recently traveled to an area where the disease has any documented cases.

{p dir=”ltr”}The Centers for Disease Control says various parts of the country are seeing different levels of COVID-19 activity as the country braces for the initiation phase of the pandemic.

{p dir=”ltr”}“States in which community spread is occurring are in the acceleration phase,” the CDC says. “The duration and severity of each pandemic phase can vary depending on the characteristics of the virus and the public health response.”

{p dir=”ltr”}For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

{p dir=”ltr”}Ada became the second Idaho county with confirmed community spread just four days after Little ordered all residents of Blaine County to self isolate on March 20 hours after public health officials revealed the coronavirus was spreading easily and sustainably there among persons with no known connections to other cases.

{p dir=”ltr”}As of Wednesday morning, Blaine County had 47 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and Ada County had 24 confirmed cases, according to public health officials. While East Idaho has only nine confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday morning — two each in Bannock, Madison, Jefferson, and Teton counties and one in Bingham — Mann said that for ever confirmed COVID-19 infection public health experts estimate there are up to 10 unconfirmed positive cases.

{p dir=”ltr”}“We know that for every confirmed case there are likely to be somewhere between five and 10 unconfirmed (positive) cases,” said Mann, “and that for every confirmed case they will spread the virus, unintentionally of course, to an average of 2.5 people.”

{p dir=”ltr”}In talking about those reference points and what it could mean for East Idaho Mann added, “We know that even though day-to-day life seems pretty normal here in Southeastern Idaho right now and you probably don’t personally know someone who’s had a positive test at this point in time … we’re pretty confident that there is a higher level of disease in our area.”

{p dir=”ltr”}With every day of the virus pandemic spreading in Idaho brings more self-isolation mandates and closures, with Lava Hot Springs announcing it was closing all of its mineral hot pools and Pocatello announcing the closure of all of its park playgrounds before Little’s Wednesday afternoon press conference.

{p class=”Component-root-0-2-123 Component-p-0-2-115”}Washington state and Oregon have also issued statewide stay-at-home orders in recent days.

{p class=”Component-root-0-2-123 Component-p-0-2-115”}“Given where we are in the biology of this disease, it’s important to do now to get the message out to all of Idaho,” Little said. “We absolutely have to have this take place.”

{p dir=”ltr”}A finalized version of Little’s order will be available online later Wednesday at coronavirus.idaho.gov, Little said.

{p dir=”ltr”}”Public safety is always our top priority,” Little said. “My fellow Idahoans, we will get through this together, as long as we all play an active part in fighting the spread of coronavirus.”

{p dir=”ltr”}The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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