Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Idaho Mobilizes National Guard in Battle Against COVID
The Idaho National Guard is being mobilized to give hospital workers across the state some help as the COVID pandemic rages. COURTESY: St. Luke's
Saturday, November 14, 2020



Idaho is mobilizing the Idaho National Guard to fight a coronavirus pandemic that is overwhelming the state’s healthcare facilities.

And Idaho Gov. Brad Little is moving Idaho back into Stage 2 of its reopening plan. It’s a modified Stage 2 plan, however, with restaurants, bars and other businesses remaining open.

With another 21 new cases on Friday, Blaine County is certainly not flattening the curve.

Gatherings will be limited to 10 or fewer inside and outside, with the exception of religious and political events. A hundred Guard members will be mobilized to provide mobile testing support, COVID screening, facility decontamination and PPE delivery for 30 days. The Guard also will provide facilities to separate inmates with COVID from the rest of the population.

“The stress on our health care system is simply not sustainable,” Little said, as he called the current situation “a crisis” during a virtual press conference Friday afternoon. “Hospitals are telling us it’s only a matter of weeks at the current level of spread before they have to start rationing care. This means they will begin turning people away.”

The science says that most of the transmission is happening in small group settings with friends and loved ones where people tend to let their guard down when it comes to physical distancing and masks, Little said.

“It’s very important students remain in classroom as much as possible,” he added. “We’ve put millions of dollars toward making schools safe. School buildings are controlled environments. School buildings are not the places where most of the transmission is happening.”

The state of Idaho recorded 1,519 new cases on Friday; Twin Falls County, 76.

Idaho tallied another 1,519 new cases on Friday for a total of 79,798. At least 752 Idahoans have lost their lives to COVID, three more on Friday.

Blaine County continued its double-digit streak, adding 21 new cases on Friday for a total of 1,075.

Right now, hospitals have enough PPE to protect workers from getting infected, said State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn.  But hospital admissions and the number of ICU beds in use have reached a critical level.

Pfizer’s announcement that an effective vaccine could be ready soon is good news, she said, adding that hospital and medical clinic workers will likely get it first. And the FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly and Co’s monoclonal antibody therapy—Bamlanivimab--to treat people who are at risk of being in the hospital but not in hospitals.

But that treatment alone is not enough, she said, and it will be awhile before the vaccine is widely available. In the interim, Idahoans need to mask and physically distance.

Little said it is evident that rolling the state back to Stage 3, which limited gatherings to 50,  wasn’t enough. But he continued to push back on issuing a state wide mask mandate.

“Law enforcement cannot be everywhere all the time. That is why I maintain this comes down to personal responsibility. Please wear a mask whenever you’re around another person who is not in your household so we can protect lives, preserve health care access for all of us and continue our economic rebound.”

Asked if he had a message for his fellow GOP politicians, such as Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin who opposes masks, he replied, “They are all independently elected, and they do what they do and I do what I do.”

Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise), a member of the Governor’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee, called Little’s decision to roll the state to a modified Stage 2 another Band-Aid. She implored him and other state leaders to take stronger, decisive action immediately to prevent thousands of people from dying in the coming months.

“Idaho is bleeding from a gaping wound,” she said. “Our healthcare workers are already giving 110 percent and the pandemic is worsening on a daily basis in Idaho. It’s painfully clear that the personal responsibility strategy is not working. We’ve been trying to encourage people to care about the lives of fellow Idahoans enough to wear a mask for months and our coronavirus cases have continued to increase.”

Nationally, the outbreak will hit a million new cases a week by the end of the year if no new measures are taken to tamp infections down, health officials say. Nearly 1,100 people died on Saturday alone—that’s three jetliners full of people crashing and dying, David Eisenman, director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, told Politico.

Several states have urged residents to stay at home to squelch surges in coronavirus infections as the United States hits all-time highs—more than 61,000--for COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Among them, Nevada, where people are being asked to Stay-at-Home for two weeks. Other states with stay-at-home advisories, include Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Wisconsin,

“It’s not safe to go out, it’s not safe to have others over,” said Wisconsin governor, according to CNN. “Please, cancel the happy hours, dinner parties, sleepovers and playdates at your home. And if a friend or family member invites you over, offer to hang out virtually, instead.”

Neighboring states are taking steps to tamp down the virus.

Utah shattered a single-day record with 3,919 new cases and a record-high 468 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Thursday. That has prompted Gov. Gary Herbert to enact an emergency order mandating masks statewide and restricting social gatherings

And Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday a two-week freeze for the state. Recreational and event facilities will be closed, restaurants and bars will be limited to take-out, social get-togethers will be limited to six people from no more than two households, church gatherings will be limited to 25 people indoors or 50 outdoors and grocery stores and retail stores will be limited to 75 percent capacity.

The state, which has a population of 4.2 million, set a single-day record of 1,122 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. Idaho, which has 1.7 million people, has exceeded 1,600 cases in a single day this week.





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