Gov. Brad Little said Thursday the state is issuing an isolation order for Blaine County due to community spread of the novel coronavirus.
It was not immediately clear what the isolation order mandated or how long it would last. Little announced the order during a 5 p.m. press conference Thursday at the Statehouse.
“We are still working on the details and the residents will still have essential services available to them, such as access to grocery stores and, of course, healthcare,” Little said.
Little and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials announced the number of confirmed cases in Blaine County had increased to 16, as a result of community spread. That included two new confirmed cases among healthcare workers, Little said.
That brought the total number of cases in Idaho to 23, with three other cases in Ada County and one each in Madison, Teton, Twin Falls and Kootenai counties.
“We want to make sure we keep it contained in Blaine County,” Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum said.
“We just want to be sure we are making sound choices.”
Little said community spread means this is the first time in Idaho that a person contracted the virus from an unknown source within their community.
“Up until now, all confirmed cases were the result of travel to an area outside of the state or from close contact with someone who contracted the virus through travel,” Little said. “At this time, it does not appear that community spread in Blaine County is widespread.”
Although he announced the additional restrictions for Blaine County, Little did not change his decision not to order all schools closed statewide. He also did not call for statewide closures of bars or restaurants or ban large gatherings.
“I am firm in my commitment to making decisions in the coronavirus planning and response based on science, not fear,” Little said. “Science and common sense tell us that planning and response efforts in one part of the state may not be the best approach in another part of the state.”
That is why Little said he initially resisted the urge to close schools across the state.
“However, I do recognize that the majority of Idaho students are out of school right now based on closure decisions at the local level,” Little said.
Little said he will be visiting public health districts across the state Friday to continue to offer updates on the state’s guidance and response to the coronavirus.
“The situation is changing hourly,” Little said.
The isolation order for Blaine County represents the latest in the state’s effort to help slow the spread of coronavirus to ensure Idaho’s health care system is not overrun.
“Our No. 1 priority is to slow the spread of the virus in that community and outside of it,” Little said. “To ensure that happens, the director of the Department of Health and Welfare will issue an isolation order for residents in the (Blaine County) area.”
A day earlier, on Wednesday, Little issued general recommendations for Idahoans. Those haven’t changed, and include:
- Avoid groups of 10 or more.
- Work from home if possible.
- Do not visit nursing homes, retirement homes or longterm care facilities unless it is to provide critical assistance.
- Continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing.
- Use drive-through, delivery or meal pick up options for food.
Little has addressed Idahoans about the spread of coronavirus multiple times in recent days.
- On Friday, he conducted two press conferences from the Statehouse. During one, he declared a state of emergency in Idaho. In the second, he announced Idaho’s first confirmed coronavirus case.
- On Sunday, he participated in a teleconference with school leaders where he announced he would not issue an order to close all schools in Idaho.
- On Tuesday he answered Idahoans’ questions during a telephone town hall meeting.
- On Wednesday he conducted a press conference to recommend additional restrictions, including work from home and avoiding groups larger than 10.
Click here for the state’s coronavirus webpage, which provides daily updates on the number of confirmed cases and tests.
Click here for all of Idaho Education News’ coronavirus coverage.
Idaho Education News senior reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this article.