Idaho is one of four states in the U.S. that does not have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Friday morning Gov. Brad Little declared a proactive state of emergency, Eastern Idaho Public Health recommends the postponement of large events and Brigham Young University-Idaho updated students on its situation.
“With no confirmed cases in Idaho at this time, we are in the best position to be proactive and get ahead of the impact coronavirus could have here,” Little said. “The concern, of course, is the well-being of our vulnerable population — the elderly with chronic underlying health conditions and others with compromised immune systems. But another big reason we are getting in front of it is to minimize the impact on our healthcare system. We need to slow down the spread of coronavirus so health care facilities are not overwhelmed with too many patients at once.”
Signing a proactive emergency declaration means the state will be able to use money from the Emergency Disaster Fund.
"It allows the Governor more flexibility to expedite contracts and purchasing of supplies, and it aids in the state’s ability to access critical supplies such as respirators from the national stockpile," a Governor's Office news release said. "In addition, the declaration includes provisions that allow the expedited renewal of licenses for nurses who have retired or left the profession."
Eastern Idaho Public Health is also recommending the postponement of mass gatherings. These include events that could have people from communities or states that have confirmed community spread of the virus and events that are inside and will have more than 250 people within six feet of each other.
"Idaho public health experts recommend event and venue managers consider using virtual gatherings (e.g., webinar, video conferencing, live stream, etc.) as a mechanism to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure to the general public and vulnerable populations, when possible," according to the health department's news release.
Health experts also recommend that housing facilities like correctional facilities, shelters, and long-term care facilities limit visitations and provide hand-washing facility for employees and residents. They also recommend enhanced screening for staff and visitors, to looking for flu-like symptoms, coughing, shortness of breath and a fever over 100.4°F.
"There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)," the release said. "The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. We all must takes steps now to protect ourselves and others, including washing hands often, practicing social distancing — keeping 6 feet between you and others, staying home if you are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, wearing a face mask only if you are sick, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces with bleach wipes or a sanitizing spray."
In the wake of COVID-19, BYU-Idaho has released more clarifying information about campus operations. In-person courses are canceled until March 17 and will be held online. The Testing Center will be available during normal business hours. The MC Crossroads, the university's food court, will be open Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. as usual and will be closed on Saturday, it will reopen Monday. The McKay library will be closed Friday and Saturday and reopen Monday, March 16. The Tutoring Center is temporarily closed but it will begin limited virtual tutoring Monday. The Hart Fitness Center will remain open until further notice.
For further information about the virus, check out our article "No confirmed cases of COVID-19 n Idaho, what you need to know."
Updates and information are available at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/.