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Little promotes $85M plan to reopen schools

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | August 7, 2020 1:08 AM

PHD: 2 more deaths, 41 new cases

COEUR d’ALENE — Two Kootenai County men in their 80s died of the coronavirus, the Panhandle Health District said Thursday, bringing PHD’s death toll attributed to the virus to 17. All were over the age of 70.

PHD also reported 41 new cases, which brings the total COVID-19 cases to 2,075. Of those, 1,317 are closed, 758 are active, and 35 are hospitalized.

In a press conference Thursday, Gov. Brad Little unveiled an $85 million plan for reopening schools.

“The unprecedented amount of money we’re directing to the safe reopening of schools is helping to make schools safe places to teach and learn, and it should provide parents and teachers the confidence to return our students to the classroom for in-person instruction,” Little said. “When students are out of the classroom for too long the achievement gap widens, threatening the progress of all students and our economic prosperity.”

The plan calls for:

• $10 million for additional masks, gloves, sanitizer, and plexiglass

• $48 million will help bridge the “digital divide” and equip schools with the computers, connectivity, and other resources for remote learning

• $21 million toward COVID-19 testing for teachers and school staff

• $3 million to increase testing lab turnaround time and capacity — as well as lab upgrades

• $3 million to leverage Idaho pharmacies in testing efforts to help quickly produce testing results for teachers, school staff, and families in rural Idaho

Little also said Idaho will remain in Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds plan for another two weeks.

“We are in a much different place now than we were in March,” he said. “Our economy is open. Many parents have returned to their places of work. We have increased our capacity for testing, contact tracing, and PPE for health care workers and businesses.”

Little said that statewide, Idaho has sufficient health care workers, PPE, ventilators, and ICU beds.

He said the state is seeing downward trends in overall case counts as well as the percent-positivity rate. He said emergency room visits from those with COVID-like symptoms are on the decline.

Idaho reported 23,399 confirmed and probable cases and 223 deaths Thursday.

“We do need to bring down the number of hospital admissions statewide, but even in some of the hot spots we are starting to see the benefits of the measures that local health officials and mayors have implemented to reduce the rate of spread and preserve hospital capacity,” he said.

Kootenai County has 1,715 total coronavirus cases, with 31 new cases, PHD said, and 609 active cases, which is 0.37 percent of its population of about 165,000.

Bonner County has 175, Shoshone has 79, Benewah has 52 and Boundary has 37.

Forty-two percent of the cases in the PHD, 884, are people in the age range 18 to 39. In younger people, the coronavirus primarily causes mild symptoms. It is more of a risk to people who are older and have compromised health conditions.

Little thanked Idahoans for their actions to protect themselves and their neighbors.

“If we continue to practice preventive measures then we will be able to send our kids back to school where they deserve to be, we will keep our citizens safe, and we will continue to rebound our economy,” Little said.

Health officials urge people to follow the PHD mask mandate for Kootenai County, wash hands and maintain social distance.