Little touts ‘incredible progress’ rolling out vaccine and fighting COVID pandemic

An upbeat Gov. Brad Little said Idaho has made incredible progress to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Idaho.

During his regular AARP Idaho-sponsored telephone town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon, Little said the fight is paying off.

As of Friday, Idaho’s coronavirus case count rate stood at 18 per 100,000 residents. That represents a huge improvement compared to the peak of the pandemic when case rates hit 68 per 100,000 on Dec. 8, Little said.

“We’ve made just incredible progress on the viral loading in our communities and infection rate and we’re all excited about that,” said Little, adding he’s still a little concerned about hospital capacity in some areas.

Ada County moved into the “yellow” risk level for coronavirus spread for schools Tuesday — between “green,” the lowest risk level, and “red,” the highest risk level. Only Valley and Teton counties remain in the “red” level. See our map for your county’s risk level. 

The good news didn’t stop there.

Health workers have vaccinated about 31 percent of Idaho seniors age 65 and older, who are now in the priority group cleared to receive vaccinations. Little said that’s faster than expected.

On top of that, more vaccine could be on the way to Idaho in 30 to 45 days, if the feds grant emergency authorization to the single-dose vaccine developed by Johnson and Johnson.

“Which will allow us to move to the next priority group sooner than we anticipate,” Little said. “There is more vaccine coming.”

On Friday, the state’s Coronavirus Vaccine Advisory Committee will meet at 2 p.m. to vote on whether to recommend higher education staff members who work in-person should receive the vaccine, state Health and Welfare Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said.

Last month, the advisory committee and Little cleared teachers and education staff who serve pre-K through grade 12 to receive the vaccine.

On Tuesday Little seemed his most optimistic (other than maybe his closely watched Jan. 11 State of the State address) since he announced the first confirmed COVID case in Idaho nearly a year ago, on March 13.

In the roughly 11 months since the first confirmed case, state officials have tracked 167,483 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases in Idaho and 1,803 deaths.

Despite the toll the virus has taken, state officials are clearly seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

Last week, Idaho quietly reached a vaccine milestone: “We have more people in Idaho who have had their first dose of vaccine than people who’ve been diagnosed with COVID,” Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said.

As of Friday, the state reported 181,715 Idahoans have received at least one dose of vaccine.

During the hourlong telephone town hall, Little fielded several calls from seniors who were frustrated they haven’t been able to get an appointment to get the shot. Little sympathized and said he’s pleased with the progress but said demand still outpaces supply.

Little didn’t announce a date to move on to clear additional residents for shots, but said the calculation will be based on vaccine availability.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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