BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little held a press conference Thursday to provide updates on the state's fight against coronavirus, which included announcing Idaho will stay in Stage 4 of the reopening plan for another two weeks. The state has repeatedly failed to hit the benchmarks needed to lift restrictions.
"That [staying in Stage 4] does not mean, we're putting restrictions on businesses or individuals," Little explained. "That does not mean, we're in the clear, or the lives of the well being of our loved ones were older who have underlying health conditions are still threatened by this deadly and aggressive disease. We did not meet establish metrics in three areas over the past two weeks for the number of reported cases, for percent of positive tests, as well as COVID hospitalizations. As dropping temperatures drag people indoors, we will likely continue to see an uptick and spread across the country."
So far, Idaho has seen more than 38,000 COVID-19 cases and 469 deaths. Nationwide, more than 200,000 have died from the virus.
Cases have continued to spike in the Gem State, with 517 new confirmed cases and five new deaths reported Wednesday. Health officials say the latest uptick in cases likely correlates to the return to school and college, as well as sports being brought back and bars being reopened.
Dr. Christine Hahn said there is an increase in cases across Idaho but there hasn't been a bump in hospitalizations - yet.
"I just wanted to get clear many parts of the state are seeing these increases, and we are concerned with all coming on," she said. "More people in school, or people inside that we will continue to struggle with rising case numbers. Additionally, we continue to have more people in the hospital than we'd like to see. We're gratified that right now, despite the rising case numbers, we have not seen a bump in hospitalizations, but we know there's sometimes a lag, and we may still see that so we're working very hard to try to encourage people, as the governor mentioned, to get their flu shots, do everything you can to stay healthy and safe wear your mask."
Ada, Canyon, Twin Falls and Latah counties have seen the biggest recent growth in cases on Wednesday.
Gov. Little also announced that President Trump will make 100 million rapid tests available for governors to tap into. Idaho will receive 530,000 rapid antigen tests, Abbott BinaxNOW, over the next three months.
The tests are 95% accurate and can be done within 15 minutes with a less invasive nasal cotton swap test.
"I am prioritizing schools to be the primary recipients of the new rapid tests. This will be a game-changer for schools. The new rapid tests, help quickly determine who has and who does not have COVID-19, so teachers and students can be back in their classrooms, instead of in quarantine," he said.
On Thursday, 35,000 tests were sent to public health districts across the Gem State.
Gov. Little also discussed the state's plan on handling the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. The state is working with the federal government to determine how the vaccine will be distributed once it becomes available.
"We are engaged in an all hands on deck approach to make sure Idaho is ready when the initial supply and coping vaccine is available." Little said. "I am directing our department health and welfare to convene the new, Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, made up the large cross-section of state stakeholders, representing a variety of organizations. The committee will guide and advise me on strategies for access to COVID-19 vaccinations statewide."
The state will submit its vaccine distribution plan to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention by Oct. 16.
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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