BOISE – Idaho Gov. Brad Little says he will lift the state’s public health emergency disaster declaration on April 15, just over two years since it was put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Little made the announcement Tuesday, saying it came after weeks of thoughtful deliberation with stakeholders.
“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. “The April 15 timeframe provides an important bridge for hospitals and other health care providers to plan for the transition.”
The rate of new coronavirus cases has dropped significantly in Idaho over the past two weeks, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Still, one out of every 219 residents tested positive for COVID in the past week, making the state second in the country for new cases per capita. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have dropped dramatically statewide.
Emergency declarations serve as a legal foundation that allows government officials to streamline the response to disasters. Such declarations can make the state eligible for increased funding, allow red tape and regulations to be lifted for a more nimble disaster response, and create the framework for emergency orders to be issued for things like social distancing, business closures and mask mandates.
Some other states have also lifted COVID-19-related emergency declarations in recent weeks, though many are still in place across the U.S. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced last month that her state’s emergency declaration would be lifted on April 1. Washington state’s disaster declaration remains in place, though Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state’s indoor mask mandate would lift the same day as Oregon’s: March 12.
Little first issued a “proactive emergency declaration” for the pandemic March 13, 2020, noting the coronavirus had been detected in neighboring states and accurately predicting that Idaho cases would soon be identified.
A little over a week later, with a major coronavirus outbreak underway in Blaine County, Little increased the urgency of the state’s response by signing an “extreme emergency declaration.” That declaration was accompanied by a stay-home order requiring residents to isolate at home when possible, limiting gathering sizes and temporarily closing some businesses like hair salons, bars and convention centers.
Those steps were lifted and replaced with lighter restrictions over the next several weeks and months. Little never issued mask orders, though some local government entities did. He touted his lack of statewide mandates when announcing that the emergency declaration would be lifted.
“I kept Idaho open, banned vaccine mandates, never issued mandates for vaccines or masks, and successfully challenged Biden’s overreaching vaccine mandates in court,” Little said.
Some Idaho lawmakers have pushed legislation that would end the disaster declaration without the governor’s sign-off. The Idaho House voted on Monday in favor of a resolution ending the disaster declaration. If the resolution passes the Senate, it could end the declaration before April 15.
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