Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide stay-home order Wednesday in response to community spread of the novel coronavirus.
He also signed an extreme emergency declaration.
“Idaho is now in a new stage with confirmed community transmission now occurring in Idaho’s most densely populated areas,” said Little, speaking at a press conference at Boise’s Gowen Field.
The stay-at-home order requires citizens to self-isolate at home if they can, not just if they are sick. It is effective immediately and will remain in place for 21 days and then be reevaluated, Little said.
Health care workers, education, public safety officials, grocery store employees, workers in the food production chain, auto mechanics and childcare providers and other essential workers are excluded from the order, Little said.
Little’s order included language classifying educators and educational institutions as essential.
“Education institutions — including public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities — for purposes of facilitating distances learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible,” the order stated.
Early Wednesday night, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra issued a statement agreeing that education is an essential service.
“Gov. Little has acted decisively, wisely and in the best interests of all citizens, including our schoolchildren,” Ybarra said. “Schools are engaged, adhering to CDC guidance and best practices, and most importantly, continuing to meet the needs of the communities and children they serve.”
Little said he is ordering citizens to do the following:
- Limit the use of public transit, except to provide or obtain essential services.
- Limit all discretionary travel.
- Limit all nonessential gatherings of any number of individuals outside the household.
- While engaging in outdoor recreation, remain six feet apart from individuals who are not a part of the household.
“Our health care and public safety workers are putting themselves in harm’s way to respond to the coronavirus emergency and we owe it to them to do our part by following the statewide stay-home order,” Little said
While the State Board of Education issued a directive Monday to close schools until April 20, SDE officials anticipate Little’s new order would allow educators at public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities to facilitate distance learning or perform other essential functions, provided social distancing of six feet is maintained to the greatest extent possible.
In an e-mail to Idaho Education News Wednesday afternoon, State Board President Debbie Critchfield said education is considered an essential service and Monday’s State Board directive remains valid.
Little’s stay-home order requires nonessential businesses to close their physical locations, Little said. That includes bars, nightclubs, gyms, recreational facilities, among other businesses.
“Employers that do not provide essential services as defined in the order must take all steps necessary for employees to work remotely,” Little said. “Grocery stores, medical facilities and essential businesses will remain open. Restaurants across the state are being ordered to close dining, but drive-through, pickup and delivery will still be available and I encourage all of us to support our neighborhood establishments.”
Little’s new stay-at-home and extreme emergency declarations represent his strongest, most widespread efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. In recent weeks he had resisted efforts to order statewide closures of schools and restaurants or to ban gatherings. Little said he has consistently based his responses on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I am confident the decisions that we have made in Idaho over the past few weeks and months have been solidly grounded in the advice of our epidemiologist and our infectious disease experts,” Little said.
But, Little said, the situation changed as a result of community spread, resulting in new restrictions.
On Tuesday, Central District Health officials confirmed one case of community spread in Ada County. An additional case in Ada County was pending investigation.
Last week, Little and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials defined community spread as someone contracting the virus from an unknown source within their community. Little said that is different from earlier cases, where Idahoans became infected after traveling to other areas with spread or through close contact with someone who contracted the virus through travel.
“From the get-go, our focus has been to slow the spread of coronavirus to protect our most vulnerable citizens and preserve capacity in our health care system,” Little said.
The state reported 37 confirmed cases for Ada County and South Central Public Health reported 63 cases for Blaine County.
This month, Little has provided numerous updates to Idahoans about the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
- On March 13, he conducted two press conferences from the Statehouse. During one, he declared a state of emergency. During the other, he announced Idaho’s first positive confirmed case.
- On March 15, he conducted a teleconference with school administrators where he said he would not issue a statewide order to close schools.
- On March 17, he conducted the first telephone town hall meeting.
- On Wednesday, Little conducted a press conference from the Statehouse where he issued additional recommendations, including working from home when possible and avoiding groups of more than 10.
- On Thursday he announced the state was issuing a shelter-in-place isolation order for Blaine County due to community spread of coronavirus.
- On Friday, Little toured public health districts across the state, met with health care officials and gave interviews to the local news media.
- On Monday, Little conducted a press conference from the Statehouse, where he signed two proclamations but declined to call for statewide closures of schools, restaurants and bars. The same day, the State Board of Education issued a directive for schools to begin soft closures, which will last until April 20.
- On Tuesday, Little fielded questions from Idahoans during a telephone town hall meeting.
Click here for all of Idaho Education News’ coronavirus coverage.
Click here for the state’s coronavirus website, which tracks positive cases and testing data, but which lags behind reports issued by local health districts.