With COVID-19 case counts down nearly 80% from a peak of 2,298 on Dec. 9, Gov. Brad Little has announced that Idaho will move back up to stage three of his Stay Healthy order.
“When we moved back to stage two in November, case counts were spiking and hospitals were bracing for the worst,” said Little in a news release Tuesday. “Today, thanks to our collective good efforts, those case counts are much lower and trending downward. Idaho now has one of the lowest rates of spread in the nation.”
Little noted that COVID-19 case counts have trended downward throughout the months of December and January.
At the same time, the governor cautioned Idahoans not to let their guard down about the virus.
“Idaho has the strongest economy in the nation and the most financially solvent state budget,” Little said. “Let’s keep it that way. We must stay vigilant.”
Neighboring states have detected a more contagious variant of the virus, with health officials warning that it is “only a matter of time” before cases of such strains appear in Idaho, according to a news release.
“Early indications show the COVID-19 vaccine will protect against the variant strains, highlighting the need for Idahoans to choose to get vaccinated to protect lives, our healthcare system, and our economy,” the release stated.
Following are the guidelines to be followed under stage three, according to the release.
• Idaho remains open but with necessary limitations to protect lives, healthcare access, and the economy.
• Gatherings should be limited to 50 or fewer people. This does not apply to political and religious expression, educational activities, and health care related events such as COVID-19 testing or vaccination events. It does not apply to youth sporting events, as long as organizers comply with spectator plans administered by the Idaho State Board of Education.
• Face coverings are strongly recommended. Face coverings continue to be required for long-term care facilities.
• Bars, restaurants, and nightclubs should continue to operate with seating only.
• Everyone, including businesses, should follow physical distancing and sanitation recommendations.
• Large events, such as trade shows, weddings, and sporting venues with more than 50 people, may receive an exemption if the organizer submits an attestation to the local public health district confirming the event will follow necessary physical distancing and hygiene protocols as outlined in their safe operations plan.
In a virtual news briefing, Little told Idahoans that while hospitals remain short on resources, a majority of them are operating “much more normally” having avoided crisis care standards.
According to state epidemiologist Christine Hahn, Idaho’s case rate has dropped to 40th in the nation.
Statewide, 491 cases were reported on Tuesday.
“We need to keep seeing those numbers go down, but that was also very welcome news,” said Hahn. “As the Governor has emphasized, I think the fact that Idahoans have stepped up, I’m really impressed. When I go out and about and need to go to the grocery store, people are wearing their masks. People are social distancing. I think people are really trying and I think it’s paying off.”
Hahn observed that the number of hospitalizations has decreased since December, going from 122 admitted on Dec. 18 to 46 on Dec. 30. There are 157 hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Jan. 30, down from 496 on Dec. 1.
Regarding variant strains, including strains first detected in the United Kingdom and California, Hahn advised Idahoans to remain vigilant.
“Our labs are looking for [these strains], but we should behave as if [they’re] here or [they’re] on [their] way.”
As of Monday, 131,909 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered statewide. 3,233 doses were administered Monday, including 1,009 second doses. The total number of Idahoans who have received vaccines as of Tuesday is 107,661.
Payette County has a vaccination rate of 3.4% as of Tuesday.