BOISE, Idaho – Idaho health officials announced the state’s first confirmed case on Friday and said it identified its second case on Saturday.
Boise State University will move instruction for more than 30,000 students online to combat the spread of the coronavirus and the rest of Idaho’s public higher education institutions will follow suit by April 1.
The state Board of Education voted unanimously to support presidents’ efforts to shift coursework online amid the growing pandemic.
The first positive case was a woman in her 50s in southwestern Idaho in highly populated Ada County, which includes Boise.
The second case was a Blaine County woman in her 50s, according to the South Central Public Health District.
Gov. Brad Little said the positive test doesn’t change anything at the moment because she contracted the virus at a conference in New York City, so it’s not a case of community spread where the source is unclear.
The news came several hours after Little declared a state of emergency.
The Republican governor said he wanted the state to be prepared and guard against healthcare systems being overwhelmed. The emergency declaration would be in effect for 30 days but could be extended.
State officials say more than 160 people in Idaho have so far been tested, but until Friday only one had been found positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said decisions about closing schools are being left to local districts, but that could change.
The University of Idaho will start online coursework March 23. Idaho State University is planning a March 30 transition date, along with Idaho’s fourth four-year institution, Lewis-Clark State College, according to the Idaho Statesman.
The state’s community colleges – the College of Western Idaho, the College of Eastern Idaho, the College of Southern Idaho and North Idaho College – are also planning a March 30 transition.
ISU could go earlier if a coronavirus case surfaces near its campuses, President Kevin Satterlee told the board. The university temporarily closed its Meridian campus Monday amid concerns that a student had contracted the virus.
“(BSU) has the largest footprint in the state,” President Marlene Tromp told the state board during a special meeting held via conference call. Given the university’s size and inner-city location, students could be a vector for transporting the virus.
Board members voiced concerns about students who might not be able to leave campus.
BSU students are encouraged to return home as soon as practical, but those with work, research or other obligations may remain in their campus housing. The university will continue to provide housing and dining services to those who need to remain on campus.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover within a few weeks.
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