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Governor: Community spread in Blaine County, mandatory isolation in place

Governor Little at the March 19 press conference.

Gov. Brad Little (left) at the March 19 press conference on community spread of COVID-19. Photo by Catie Clark.

Gov. Brad Little announced on the evening of March 19 that one case of community spread of COVID-19 was now confirmed in Blaine County.

The total number of confirmed cases in the county was now 16, two of whom were health care workers. The total number of cases in the state as of 5 p.m. on March 19 was 23,  double what it was the day before.

The Governor has issued a mandatory isolation order for Blaine County. When asked exactly what this involved for county residents, Little said: “It is similar to the guidance that I gave everybody yesterday prior to community spread, but now it’s mandatory.”

Blaine County residents are directed to stay home except for essential activities or to conduct essential business or government services.

“People need to stay isolated if they have any symptoms. It’s critical over there because of the fact that there is some exposure at their health care facility, and we need to protect that.  … Obviously I want to protect every resident of Blaine County, but we have to do all we can to work with health care to make sure that they have the tools they need. … The reason we haven’t gotten a final order out is that this the first one, and we want to make sure we get it right. We’ve been in consultation with the County commissioners, with the health district, the mayors and (want to be sure) they’re all on the same page.”

Little added that officials are working on the logistics so that Blaine County residents still have access to essential services such as grocery stores and of course health care.

Most of the population of Blaine County is concentrated in its western half along the Wood River Valley in Sun Valley, Ketchum, Bellevue, Hailey and a handful of smaller communities nearby.

Most of the cases in the state to date are concentrated in Blaine County. There are three cases in Ada, and one case apiece in Kootenai, Madison, Teton and Twin Falls Counties.

The Governor emphasized that these actions are appropriate for Blaine County right now, but not elsewhere in the state because there is so much difference between the various parts of Idaho.

“Idaho is an expansive and geographically diverse state,” Little said. “Science and common sense tell us that planning response efforts for one part of the state may not be the best approach in another part.”

He said that the government would tailor its response to COVID-19 based on the demographics of each affected area and the nature of its specific outbreak.

General guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19

  • Avoid groups of 10 or more.
  • Work from home if possible.
  • Do not visit nursing homes, retirement homes or long-term care facilities unless it is to provide critical assistance.
  • Continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing.
  • Use drive-thru, delivery or meal pick-up options for food.

About Catie Clark