Little doesn’t foresee another statewide shutdown coming

Gov. Brad Little said he is not preparing for new lockdowns as the coronavirus continues to spread through Idaho.

“I don’t foresee a shutdown coming,” Little said Tuesday, during a telephone town hall meeting coordinated by AARP Idaho.

Little also used the call to repeat assurances that controlled environments — where people wear masks and maintain distances of six feet — are safer than uncontrolled environments.

“We do know that whether it is in a classroom or a restaurant and people are spaced out, the risk of transmission is much, much lower,” Little said.

As part of his efforts to encourage in-person learning, Little has regularly said schools are safe and not contributing to transmission. Last week, Idaho Education News asked Little’s office for the science and data that shows schools are not a source of transmission. Little’s press secretary said Department of Health and Welfare officials are working on providing some of the data.

Tuesday’s telephone town hall was the 26th Little has conducted since March 13, when he announced Idaho’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. It was also Little’s only public appearance of the week. His calendar does not include any other upcoming public events during this holiday week.

Multiple callers asked Little why he hasn’t ordered a statewide mask mandate or closed bars and ordered restaurants to operate using only delivery or takeout.

“We’re trying to stop the spread, we’re not trying to put anybody out of business,” Little said.

Little again said he has fallen short in messaging on the importance of taking precautions and modifying behavior to slow the spread of the virus. He said he would soon be coming out with strong messages, some targeted specifically to young people.

“I don’t have to have everybody doing the right thing but it sure help if I’d get 80 or 90 percent.”

Although Little fielded tough questions, there were moments of optimism. In honor of Thanksgiving he expressed gratitude to health care workers and said the first, limited shipments of a vaccine could reach Idaho within about 30 days.

Further reading: For more information on Idaho’s vaccine distribution plan and timeline for K-12 employees, check out senior reporter Kevin Richert’s article from earlier Tuesday.

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