Idaho will not move on from stage four

Idaho Gov. Brad Little addresses Idahoans at a press conference held at the Idaho Foodbank in Boise on Aug. 21. Idaho will remain in stage four of its reopening plan for at least two more weeks.

PAYETTE COUNTY — Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s comments on the state’s response to COVID-19 coincided with his comments on the state of residents’ food insecurity statewide. Little spoke on both of these topics at a press conference from the Idaho Foodbank in Boise on Aug. 21.

In his comments, Little confirmed that Idaho will remain in stage four of its reopening plan for an additional two weeks.

“The number of hospital admissions of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients is higher than we’d like across the state,” said Little. “However, over the past two weeks, metrics have improved in other areas;  We’re seeing overall downward trend in confirmed cases, test positivity rates and emergency room visits and patients with COVID-like illnesses.”

Little said the state’s hospitals have sufficient ventilators and personal protective equipment, and said hospitalizations are stabilizing. According to the Idaho Division of Public Health, 11 emergency room visits were logged for COVID-like illnesses on Aug. 19, the most recent date available as of press time. March 16 saw the state’s highest number of these hospitalizations, with 89.

“This demonstrates our efforts to preserve the healthcare capacity and slow the spread of [COVID-19], those efforts are all working,” added Little. “Please continue to practice all the preventive measures we’ve been talking about; Wear a face mask in public. Wash your hands, and clean surfaces regularly. Keep physical distance from others. And stay home if you’re sick.”

On Aug. 14, Little’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee approved $2.56 million to support the food bank and its 400-plus partner organizations across the state as they work to fill food needs caused by job losses resulting from COVID-19.

“Many Idahoans have experience a job loss or loss in income since the spring, making it harder to afford the most basic of human needs, food,” said Little. “As a result, more and more Idaho families are turning to their local food banks and food assistance programs during [COVID-19]. The demand for food assistance is on the rise, and I want to commend the Idaho Foodbank and its staff and all its supporters for rising to the challenge this year.”

Karen Vauk, President and CEO of the Idaho Foodbank, detailed how the food bank has responded to ongoing food insecurity and how the additional funding will be used.

“Since the beginning, the Idaho Foodbank and the majority of our partners have maintained uninterrupted services; We’ve monitored the increasing levels of food insecurity at a county and community level, and dramatically increased the amount of free food that we’re providing across the state … The funding provided to the Idaho Foodbank will ensure that we’re able to acquire and distribute healthy food to our  communities and partners and directly to those in need. In light of the continued uncertainty and the stress caused by this pandemic, this will allow us to ease the burden of Idahoans and reinforce good health through the assurance that food will be available for our children, our seniors and our families.”

Little praised local leaders during the conference, for taking the task of mitigating COVID-19 spread at their local level, as well as food bank volunteers and staff.

“Being here at the Idaho Foodbank reminds us that hardship is an opportunity to love your neighbor. I’m so impressed and touched by the hundreds of Idahoan citizens, businesses and n non-profits that have stepped up to help others in need.”

According to Little, Idaho’s unemployment rate is holding at 5%.

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