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Viewpoint: Gov. Little reflects on Idaho's fight against COVID-19 one year later

Governor Brad Little looks back at the early days of the pandemic and discusses where we are now and where we may be headed.

BOISE, Idaho — This month marks one year of COVID-19 in Idaho. It's not an anniversary to celebrate, but certainly, one to recognize. After all, so many have lost so much, but now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel because of the rollout of three vaccines.

Here are some of the key dates on the Idaho COVID-19 timeline over the last year: 

  • March 13, 2020 - The state reports its first confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • March 25, 2020 - Governor Brad Little issues the statewide Stay-Home Order and signs an extreme emergency declaration.
  • March 26, 2020 - The first three COVID-related deaths are reported in Idaho.
  • April 7, 2020 - The Governor signs an executive order forming the Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee to oversee the $1.25 Billion in federal coronavirus relief funds Idaho received under the CARES Act.
  • June 11, 2020 - Idaho enters the final stage of reopening under the Idaho Rebounds plan.
  • Aug. 24, 2020 - The special legislative session called by Governor Little begins. Its focus is on election law changes to hold a safe and secure November election and liability reform during emergencies. The legislature approved giving county clerks more time to process the anticipated huge volume of absentee ballots.
  • Nov. 13, 2020 - Idaho rolls back to a modified Stage 2 of reopening because of COVID's impact on hospital staff and capacity.
  • Dec. 14, 2020 - The first coronavirus vaccinations are given to health care workers.
  • February 2 - The governor moves Idaho forward to Stage 3 again as case counts and hospitalizations declined.

Below is the latest COVID-19 data from the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare Dashboard:

  • 172,587 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since the pandemic started
  • 1,876 COVID-related deaths
  • 406,866 total doses of vaccine have been administered.
  • 264,452 Idahoans have received at least one shot.
  • 142,414 have received both doses.

The percentage of positive tests has dropped to 4.5%. That is down from a high of 19.1% in late November. 5% has been the unofficial goal for reopening the state.

According to KTVB's tally looking at the previous two weeks of data, the state is averaging 284 new coronavirus cases per day. That is down from a peak of nearly 1,500 new cases per day in mid-December.

During the taping of this week's Viewpoint, Idaho Gov. Brad Little discussed the early days of the pandemic, where we are now and where we may be headed. Excerpts of that interview are below.

Doug Petcash: When you issued your Stay-Home Order on March 25 there were only 136 cases of COVID in Idaho. Looking back, what do you now think of the timing of that order?

Gov. Little: Almost every state had an emergency order. Of course, our Stay-Home was much less than a lot of states. The construction industry, there were a lot of industries that we classified as essential that kept going at the same time. Of course, the schools were closed, not by my order or even the State Board of Education. It was basically the preference of the local school boards to close down schools. But everybody knew. It was unanimous among all 50 states that we had to take some actions to slow the spread until we had PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and until we had health care capacity.

Doug Petcash: And looking back over the last year, would you have done anything differently?

Gov. Little: Oh yeah. Of course, you would. But generally, given the information I had at the time, I think generally we did the right thing. There were some federal programs that were directed to us that had we known earlier we could have prepared better. From a timing standpoint we would have done things a little different, but given the information that we had at the time. You know, I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to reflect back on everything. I might have done some things a little different, but the one thing I know for sure, the no-action alternative would have been a disaster. Nobody did that. You had to act given the magnitude of the pandemic.

Doug Petcash: Now that the case numbers are down and the positivity rate has fallen below 5%, are you going to ease more restrictions or open up the state fully like Texas and Mississippi have done?

Gov. Little: Texas and Mississippi are opening up to like where we are now. They're taking off their mask mandate. We don't have a mandate. They're opening up businesses that we have open. The only real issue in Idaho is gathering size, and as we check around with the hospitals to make sure they're okay, that will be the next thing.

You can watch the full interview with Governor Little on Viewpoint Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on KTVB.

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