BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — With nearly 1,500 infections confirmed and 39 deaths connected to the coronavirus, Idaho Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday morning that he would not lift the stay-home order that’s been in place for the last three weeks.
The order will be extended through April 30, according to Little.
Some curbside delivery services may open between now and April 30. But, Little’s order still excludes non-essential businesses, such as nightclubs and salons.
Little is also asking travelers who return to the state to self-quarantine for 14 days.
He said he is sympathetic to small businesses that have to close, but the stay-home orders should get Idaho to a point where businesses can reopen.
“I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do for the people of Idaho,” Little said.
LITTLE ISSUED STAY-HOME ORDER MARCH 25
Little issued his 21-day stay-home order on March 25 after community spread was confirmed in Ada County. At the time, only about 100 people in Idaho had tested positive for the coronavirus.
That number has grown by more than 1,300 since then. But Idaho has reported just 66 new coronavirus cases in the past four days, out of 1,634 tests (4% positive). New cases peaked with 205 on April 2, and 79% of the state’s confirmed cases are in three counties — Ada, Blaine and Canyon.
Fatalities, meanwhile, have been reported eight of the past nine days, with 39 statewide as of Tuesday evening. Twenty-nine of those deaths have been reported in the past nine days.
In March, Little also signed an “extreme emergency declaration” that gives the state additional tools to slow the spread of the virus.
As of Tuesday night, 32 of the state’s 44 counties had confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and there was community spread reported in 13 counties. The Idaho Statesman has kept a daily log of new cases in every county since the first case was confirmed in Idaho on March 13.
In neighboring states, Washington has extended its shelter-in-place order into May, and Oregon’s order doesn’t have a set expiration date.
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said at Tuesday’s Boise City Council meeting that she had rescinded her original orders when the governor made his, but that she would put out new social distancing orders if Little let them expire without a replacement.
”If anything’s pulled back that we deem not in the best long-term interest of our health or economy in our city, then we’ll add those things back in,” she told the council.
PROBLEMS ACROSS THE STATE
Over the past month, data involving new cases in Idaho has been problematic. Numbers weren’t always consistent between the health districts and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and information about new patients and fatalities was vague.
On Tuesday, Central District Health confirmed the first outbreak in an Ada County nursing home. A woman in her 60s who was a resident at Avamere Transitional Care and Rehabilitation in Boise, a nursing home for senior citizens, died, and more than a dozen other residents and staffers at Avamere have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
As a whole, Ada County has seen nine coronavirus-related deaths and more than 530 confirmed cases, according to Central District Health.
Blaine County was the state’s first hot spot, with more than 450 confirmed cases and five deaths. A special meeting held by the Blaine County Commission on Saturday ended in a 2-1 vote to extend the county’s restrictive order by one week. The Blaine County order remains in effect until April 19, although there have been encouraging signs in the home of Sun Valley and Ketchum.
PUSHBACK ON THE STAY-HOME ORDER
Little, a Republican, received some pushback on his stay-home order from state and county officials — largely fellow Republicans — who questioned the constitutionality of the action. Raul Labrador, who lost the gubernatorial election to Little in 2018 and is the chairman of the state Republican Party, sent out a letter Tuesday night stressing the economy and saying it was time to start reopening Idaho.
The Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion on its website, stating that Little does have the authority to issue the order under the Idaho Constitution and that it would have no trouble defending the order in court.
Idaho Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, who represents Bonner County’s district in the House, asked her constituents to openly defy Little’s order in her official newsletter. Bonner County, as of Tuesday, had four confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Adams County Prosecutor Chris Boyd wrote a letter to Little. Boyd said he cannot in good faith issue citations to those who are out of compliance with the stay-home order. He claimed the order infringed upon residents’ First Amendment rights.