BOISE, Idaho — In this week's episode of Viewpoint, KTVB's Doug Petcash talked with Idaho Governor Brad Little about the guidelines for reopening public schools and about his decision to keep the state in Stage 4 of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
You can watch the full interview on Viewpoint Sunday at 6:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. on KTVB.
Editor's Note: The following interview has been edited for clarity and grammar.
Doug Petcash: What were the key factors for you in deciding to stay in Stage 4?
Gov. Brad Little: In your intro, you nailed it. It was the percent of positivity, in particular, is one we’re very concerned about. We're doing a lot more testing. In fact, we're almost meeting double the nationwide guidance the CDC has given out. But awareness, public awareness because of all the work you've done, the station's done, the media has done, people are aware, and if they show symptoms they're going in to get tested, but that percent positivity is very concerning and that's why we stayed. But as you're well aware here in the Treasure Valley and Ada County the health district has taken some actions. I've got other areas of the state where the positivity rate is zero. There are people being tested with no positive tests. So that's why we've gone to a more regional approach for the actions we take going forward.
Petcash: Are you comfortable with the number of ICU beds, ventilators and PPE the state has at this point?
Gov. Little: I am comfortable. I am not overly comfortable. But as we've learned, as the science has evolved, I want to stress to everyone that there's a reason this called the Novel Coronavirus because we're learning more about it every day about how we treat people that show up in the emergency room. there's new therapeutics that we have distributed all over the state. But it's concerning. ICU capacity is your critical last step as we're seeing in several states, but as we get higher rates of positivity, as we have more people going into the hospital then we're concerned because that means at some point in time it will be testing our ICU capacity, but we've got plenty today.
Petcash: Why do you feel it's so important to get kids and teachers back in their schools in the fall semester?
Gov. Little: It's one of the fundamental tenets of state government. It's in our constitution that we provide and thorough and uniform system of public schools. With the close down last spring, you know some of the kids were fortunate enough that their parents had the time and had the skills and had resources were able to kind of keep the kids caught up. But other ones, the ones we really have the fiduciary duty to, the ones who have a more challenging home life, for whatever reason, they absolutely need to have the opportunity to go back to school.
Petcash: We're hearing from some teachers who are very concerned about going back. How concerned are you that maybe a large number of teachers might not return?
Gov. Little: I'm very concerned about it. But the document talks about that. Some school districts, rural school districts that haven't been growing much, a lot of teachers have been there for a long, long time, they're older, but those are also communities where we have little or no community spread. Vigilance and doing all the right things, personal responsibility by the people in the community will be very helpful for those. But we're concerned about particularly older teachers that are in the more compromised health category for COVID.
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