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'It's what people expect'

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | December 19, 2020 1:00 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — Gov. Brad Little said Friday that one of the biggest challenges his administration faces in his continued urging for Idaho to mask up during the coronavirus pandemic is the core of Idahoans themselves.

"There’s a reason why Idaho is the least-regulated state in the nation. It’s what people expect," Little said in a press conference at Pappy Boyington Field in Hayden. "It’s what we do is try to have the minimum amount of regulation.”

Little made the statements during the last stop of a press tour around Idaho’s smaller markets. The tour was designed to reach out to cities outside the Boise metropolitan area to continue his push for all Idahoans to slow the spread of COVID-19, a disease the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports has killed 1,275 people statewide.

Little used the press conference to encourage locals to follow health protocols to not only maintain the state’s health care capacity, but also to keep schools and businesses open.

When asked if restrictions should replace messaging, Little said mandates are far more likely to be effective if they’re held at the local level.

“I fundamentally believe in my DNA, people are much more inclined to respond to a mandate if it’s the city council and the mayor that their kids go to school with or they see at church, if it’s county commissioners they know at a local level," he said. "The higher the level of the mandate — particularly in the Intermountain West — the higher the suspicion, the lower the compliance.”

Little continued to encourage mask-wearing and following health protocols as COVID-19 spikes throughout the state.

While hospitals across Idaho are nearing capacity, the Department of Health and Welfare reported a record 2,298 new cases Dec. 9. Friday it was down to 1,340 new cases statewide.

Laboratory testing numbers have also shown improvement since the beginning of the month: With a record-high 19.9 percent positivity rate statewide as recently as Dec. 5, that number has shrunk to a more manageable 16.5 percent in the last week.

“Our numbers are getting a little better,” Little said, “but we don’t have a lot of leeway. People have got to choose to do the right thing. We know that when you talk to the people about what that is. Our positivity rate has gotten a lot better. That’s a leading indicator. The leading indicator is positivity, but a lagging indicator is unfortunately either ICU capacity or, heaven forbid, deaths, which we’ve had too many of.”