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Viewpoint: Governor Little discusses stay-at-home order and coronavirus impacts

The governor says his main concern is health care capacity: Not only having enough hospital beds, but also personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little knows his "stay at home" order is impacting everyone's daily lives. But he says he issued it because he believes it will save lives and keep our health care system from being overwhelmed with sick patients.

"You cannot stop coronavirus here or probably anywhere in the world given what's taken place," the governor said during the taping of this Sunday's Viewpoint. "So now it's how do you manage it."

Little decided the best way to manage it was to tell Idahoans to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread.

His "stay-at-home" order allows those in jobs deemed "essential", such as health care, public safety, grocery store and gas station workers to stay on the job. It's also okay for Idahoans to go out to get essential needs like groceries and prescriptions. Otherwise, hunker down at home.

"My job is to protect the safety of all Idahoans, and this is my job right now," Little said.

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The governor says his main concern is health care capacity. Not only having enough hospital beds, but also personal protective equipment, such as medical masks, for health care workers.

So, is Idaho's health care system prepared for a spike in the number of patients?

"Well, they are as prepared as they can be," Little said. "We have a lot of people in Idaho, and we don't have a lot of capacity, particularly in rural Idaho. We're really no different than most other places. The supply is not adequate."

Little issued a proclamation recently that would make it easier for retired doctors and nurses to come back into the profession to help with the coronavirus situation. He says some retirees have expressed interest, but not as many as he would like.

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The governor was also asked if the kids are going back to school this year.

"Oh, we hope so, but there's no guarantee," Little said. "You know, we're looking at it day by day."

In the meantime, he wants the kids to keep learning, and trusts the districts and teachers to make it happen. He singled out the Nampa School District, which will provide online lessons.

"It's important that we not go backwards so far that we have to add another semester," Little said.

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For laid-off workers and businesses battered by the coronavirus impacts, Little says much of the help will come from the $2 trillion federal stimulus package, but the state has a role to play.

"Unemployment is one of the things that we're responsible for," Little said. "So we're really ramping up what we're doing on unemployment. We're worried about people's utility bills. We've talked to the utilities. We're talking about rent, about evictions."

The number of people getting sick with COVID-19 is sure to go up, but Little believes the state has a lot going for it in the fight against the virus.

"We've got a balanced budget, we've got money in the bank, we've got resources, we've got great citizens," Little said. "We're going to get through this and we're going to be better off."

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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