BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little declared a state of emergency in Idaho Friday due to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus across the nation.
So far though, Idaho has not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19.
During a news conference Friday morning, Little addressed the state efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“We know that most people who contract (coronavirus) end up with mild or no symptoms, which reinforces the need for all of us to do our part to prevent the spread of coronavirus to those who could be more seriously impacted,” Little said.
Those who are at the most risk are the elderly with underlying health problems and those with compromised immune systems.
“If we don’t all do our part to control the spread of coronavirus then our health facilities will be overrun with patients in a short period of time,” Little said.
He explained that if too many people get sick all at once, Idaho’s hospitals won’t have the capacity to handle the influx of patients. The goal in declaring a state of emergency is to slow the spread of COVID-19 to make sure hospitals can maintain enough space to treat those who need it.
“For these two reasons, to protect the vulnerable and preserve hospital capacity, I am today signing an emergency declaration,” Little said.
The emergency declaration will increase the state’s access to critical supplies like respirators from the national stockpile, activates Idaho’s emergency operations plan and makes funds available for use in the emergency disaster fund.
“It allows me as governor more flexibility to expedite contracts in purchasing supplies and it allows the expedited renewal process for nurses who have retired or left the profession to jump in help the response efforts when that need comes,” Little said.
In his speech, Little addressed the question of coronavirus testing in Idaho.
“Idaho is fortunate to have a state-run lab to process coronavirus tests. The lab is keeping up on testing needs at this time. Dozens have been tested already and private labs are ramping up to begin testing for coronavirus,” he said.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahan explained that while the state’s lab is able to keep up with the number of tests being sent in, Idaho needs more testing done and needs private labs to help with that.
“We have increased our testing but I acknowledge … that it is not enough. We need private laboratories to jump in,” Hahn said. “We acknowledge we should be testing more Idahoans.”
Despite that, Little said Idaho is prepared for coronavirus.
“We’re communicating with the business community, schools, local elected officials, the federal government and citizens on a daily basis. We must not be alarmed, but we must be cautious. The old saying goes ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure,” Little said.