BOISE, Idaho — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, Idaho is making the top of a national list of states with high case and positivity rates.
Data straight from the Trump administration's Coronavirus Task Force places Idaho's positivity rate as the second-highest in the nation, only behind Montana.
The task force also said issuing a statewide mask recommendation will reinforce the critical importance of face coverings.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little has implored Idahoans to wear masks but has not issued a statewide mask mandate. Instead, he has called on Idaho's seven local health districts to do so.
Below are excerpts from an interview with Gov. Little.
Doug Petcash: With these latest case numbers and the numbers of deaths spiking, are you leaning more in that direction, considering going to a mask mandate?
Gov. Little: Well, we're doing several things right now. I think today we're going to put the final touches on some more outreach. As I stated in our press conference, we have not done a very good job of messaging when you look at the compliance. We all know there are certain conspiracy theories out there. We have got to get better information that touches the hearts of Idahoans about the critical nature of health care. My guiding North Star from the very beginning from back in March has been health care capacity, and that's one of the reasons I called out the National Guard. We continue to expand health care capacity, but infection rate among hospital workers is really creating a problem there and we've got to get that message through to Idahoans. A mandate, my general feeling on this is if your mother tells you to do something you probably do it. And the closer it is to your mother the more apt you are to do it. The further it is, whether it be the governor or the president or nationally versus local, the compliance is going to be better. What I want is compliance.
Doug Petcash: Why go back to a modified Stage 2 that is not as restrictive as the Stage 2 we were in earlier this year?
Gov. Little: If we implement the protocols under Stage 2, we should be good. Those small gatherings, restaurants and bars having more spacing, reducing transmission. When we first started there was a real shortage of PPE and we didn't know everything we know today about COVID. We didn't know about the efficacy of these face coverings, about what it does to protect you from me and me from you. So as we learn more about COVID, we can not be as restrictive. I don't want to shut down businesses at all. I don't want to shut down houses of faith, but I do need them to act differently than they did before.
Under the modified Stage 2 order, public and private gatherings are limited to 10 people or fewer, both indoor and outdoor.
The top consideration that could lead to tighter restrictions in Idaho would be having too many COVID-19 patients for local hospitals to handle, according to Little. Additionally, infection rates among health care workers will be a deciding factor as well.
Little is confident a vaccine will start being distributed in Idaho in December. Health care workers will likely receive the vaccine first followed by residents in nursing and assisted living homes.
You can watch the full interview on Viewpoint on Sunday at 6:30 a.m.
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