State leaders reiterate preventative measures amid coronavirus outbreak

BOISE — It’s become a familiar refrain as Idaho braces for it’s first possible case of coronavirus.

Wash your hands. Stay home if you’re sick. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Gov. Brad Little and state health leaders stressed these points during a press conference in the governor’s ceremonial office Wednesday. The State Department of Education shared a similar message Monday.

“I encourage Idahoans to do their part,” Little said during the press conference.

Idaho is currently reporting no cases of coronavirus, though at least six people have been tested and 35 have been monitored. At least 10 people have died from the virus in Washington State, as of Wednesday afternoon, the New York Times reported.

Cases could soon pop up in Idaho, acknowledged Idaho Public Health Director Christine Hahn. And if they do, basic preventative measures are key to combating a spread until researchers develop an antivirus.

“We can’t stop it, but we can slow it down,” Hahn said.

Hahn also provided some reassurances to Idahoans concerned about contracting the virus. The individual risk for those living in the state is still low. And of those who do catch it, about 80 percent experience mild illness and will “be just fine.”

That includes kids, who have been fighting off the disease better than older adults, Hahn added. “Everything so far is reassuring about our kids’ safety.”

Still, the virus can be up to 10 times worse than more common flu strains. The most vulnerable to serious symptoms and death include the elderly and those who are already sick, Hahn said.

Little, Hahn and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppeson provided other information during Wednesday’s presser, including a new state website devoted to coronavirus in Idaho and a working group of seven professionals and experts tasked with coordinating efforts to “prepare and respond to the virus.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra is a member of the group. Others include:

  • Dave Jeppesen: Idaho Department of Health & Welfare director.
  • Brian Whitlock, Idaho Hospital Association president.
  • Carol Moehrle, North Central Public Health District director.
  • Brad Richy, Idaho Office of Emergency Management director.
  • Carolyn Bridges, former CDC Public Health Physician specializing in influenza pandemic planning and response.
  • David Pate, former physician and hospital system CEO.

Wednesday’s press conference was streamed live on the governor’s Facebook page. Click here to view it.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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