On Tuesday evening, Governor Brad Little Tweets: “I will make an important announcement about Idaho’s COVID-19 response Wednesday at Gowen Field at 1:30 pm. A public release with more information will immediately follow.”
670 KBOI will air the presser LIVE at 1:30pm.
On Tuesday – Governor Brad Little is hoping people will stay home and practice social distancing as the state works to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Little, along with Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppeson participated in a Town Hall via telephone Tuesday afternoon, hosted by the AARP.
“I will give you the same message you’ve been hearing over and over: stay home when possible, particularly if you’re older or health compromised,” the Governor said at the start of the call.
Jeppeson outlined the three main goals the department is working on: protecting the elderly and health-compromised, slowing the spread and flattening the curve, and preserving and growing the healthcare capacity.
Jeppeson said there is currently no backlog for tests that come to the state’s laboratory. He said workers have completed more than 1,000 tests for COVID-19. Jeppeson said it is not as much as he would like, but they are able to test the high risk cases. He also said, even if they had enough tests, “if you don’t have symptoms, there’s no reason to get tested.”
CBS2 reports several Idahoans asked the Governor and Director Jeppeson questions.
Several callers asked about the possibility of travel restrictions. One person asked if it would be possible to have a travel ban in areas like McCall, noting that many people are coming into the area. The city of McCall is urging people not to travel to the area, worrying that the healthcare system would not be able to handle an influx of people.
While the state is encouraging people to stay where they are, “from a constitutional standpoint, the ability to ban them is very difficult,” he said. The governor said he has been talking with governors in other states about issues with travel.
Another participant asked why the Boise Airport was still open. Little said that was also a constitutional issue. He also said the airport is critical for bringing in needed supplies, and sending out tests. He said that people coming into the area need to self isolate. “People need to do the right thing,” he said.
Jeppeson also mentioned the Blaine County Airport. He said officials were considering shutting down the airport as part of the shelter-in-place order, but that the airport needs to be kept open as a point of entry for critical supplies.
The Governor is encouraging people to practice social distancing while outside.
During the Town Hall, the governor and director discussed helping the healthcare system during the expected surge in patients due to COVID-19. Little mentioned that Idaho is one of the only states that keeps track of the amount of medical supplies throughout the state. Jeppeson also mentioned the coronavirus working group is looking at all options to expand the state’s hospital bed capacity. “The most important thing we can do is slow the spread,” the governor said.
The state is also working to provide childcare for healthcare workers.
The governor also addressed why the state tax filing deadline was pushed back to June 15th, rather than matching the new federal tax deadline, which is July 15th. Little says that’s because Idaho’s constitution requires a balanced budget every year. “If we moved the money on the other side of July first then we wouldn’t have had a balanced budget,” he said.
Jeppeson also explained the effort to get enough personal protective equipment for medical workers, in response to one caller’s question. He said the state recently received another shipment from the national stockpile. Hospitals can also work with their healthcare districts to get needed supplies. While they cannot fill every order, he said the state is in a position to help as needed. “We overturn rocks every day looking for supplies,” Jeppeson said.
Several callers asked about how the state will distribute information to people who need it. The governor says the information on the coronavirus website is updated daily in English and Spanish. The state is also working to distribute information to Latino radio stations, and do outreach for non-English speaking residents.
The Governor also says the group is reaching out to farm workers directly to make sure employees are practicing good hygiene.
Little ended the call by encouraging people to stay in good health. He also encourages people to reach out to others by phone or electronically to people who are self-isolated. “Love thy neighbor, that’s the most important thing,” he said.
Another Town Hall is scheduled for Tuesday, March 31st at 12pm.