Citing a crisis facing Idaho’s health care system, Gov. Brad Little announced Monday he is moving the state back to Stage 3 of his four-stage coronavirus reopening plan.
Little said the move was necessary because hospitals throughout Idaho are nearing capacity and facing alarming demands due to increased COVID-19 cases. Idaho is coming off the third successive week of record new coronavirus cases numbers, Idaho Education News reported Friday.
“My fellow Idahoans, we are in a crisis with our health care system in Idaho due to the pandemic,” Little said. “Hospitals throughout the state are quickly filling up or are already full of COVID patients.”
The move does not change school operations and should not impact in-person voting for the Nov. 3 election, Little said.
In fact, Little continued to say he favors in-person learning and continues to advocate for local decisionmaking over statewide mandates.
“There is so much difference between schools and the transmissibility that exists from one building to another and, in some instances, some of the newer buildings have less distancing opportunities and space than some of the old buildings,” Little said. “I don’t see any way we can come up with one size fits all given the variability in schools.”
Several times, reporters asked Little why he didn’t issue a statewide mask mandate in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
“We all know that if somebody locally asks us or tells us to do something, the compliance rate is a lot higher,” Little said.
Little emphasized that the new Stage 3 order is different than its predecessor.
- It will not force restaurants or bars to close or only offer to-go service. Instead, customers must remain seated.
- It won’t require churches to close or discontinue in-person religious services.
- It requires physical distancing for all types of gatherings.
- It will limit indoor gatherings to 50 people or less and limit capacity of outdoor gatherings to 25 percent of capacity.
Little already signed the Stage 3 order and it becomes effective at midnight.
The order was based on evidence of “a significant increase in cases of COVID-19 within the state” and the advice of state epidemiologists, public health experts and guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Several medical professionals, including Dr. Joshua Kern from St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center and Dr. Andrew Wilper from the Boise VA Medical Center, spoke Monday about how the spread of the virus is overwhelming capacity.