Gov. Brad Little announced Tuesday that he will end his declaration of a public health emergency on April 15, more than two years after it began.
The emergency allowed Idaho to receive federal assistance, including Federal Emergency Management Agency payments to bring hundreds of health care workers to Idaho hospitals.
“We’re hopeful the recent decrease in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths means we are on a downward trend with the pandemic,” Little said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “For weeks, we have been closely examining the needs within Idaho’s health care system with an eye toward ending the public health emergency declaration as soon as possible.”
Local, state and federal government entities alike have begun to relax COVID-19 restrictions and guidance, as the most recent and most pervasive surge of coronavirus gives way to a lull in disease activity. They also note the availability of not only vaccines but also treatments and preventive medications and respirators.
The Idaho House of Representatives on Monday passed a resolution to end the emergency declaration; it still must be adopted by the Senate. Little maintains that only the governor can lawfully end an emergency declaration.
FEMA also has covered the costs of critical supplies such as ventilators and personal protective equipment, National Guard support and vaccine distribution.
“FEMA covered $257 million in costs since March of 2020 that would otherwise have been covered by the Idaho state budget or local governments,” the announcement Tuesday said. “That means without the emergency declaration, the State of Idaho would not be able to provide Idahoans with historic tax relief and unprecedented strategic investments to keep up with growth.”
Idaho still maintains a disaster fund it can use to respond to COVID-19, the announcement said.
The governor’s statement in full reads:
“I kept Idaho open, banned vaccine mandates, never issued mandates for vaccines or masks, and successfully challenged Biden’s overreaching vaccine mandates in court.
The emergency declaration served as an administrative function to recoup FEMA dollars for a variety of needs throughout Idaho. The emergency declaration never violated or restricted any rights of Idahoans, never put Idaho on lockdown, and never allowed for mandates for masks or vaccines. These are the facts.
Without the emergency declaration we would not be able to provide historic tax relief, a step that’s even more important now as gas prices and inflation soar. Without the emergency declaration, Idaho would not be the state with the strongest economy in the nation.
We’re hopeful the recent decrease in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths means we are on a downward trend with the pandemic. For weeks, we have been closely examining the needs within Idaho’s healthcare system with an eye toward ending the public health emergency declaration as soon as possible. The April 15 timeframe provides an important bridge for hospitals and other healthcare providers to plan for the transition.
I want to thank Idahoans, especially our medical community, first responders, public health officials, and National Guard volunteers for helping us reach this positive milestone.”
— Audrey Dutton is a senior investigative reporter for the Idaho Capital Sun. This article was originally published on idahocapitalsun.com.