Gov. Little COVID presser MAIN

Gov. Brad Little addresses members of the media during a press conference in the Lincoln Auditorium at the Idaho State Capitol, Thursday, June 25, 2020.

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BOISE — The White House’s coronavirus task force released a new report this week that recommends mask mandates for counties and cities in the infectious danger zone, including three counties in Idaho.

Ada, Canyon and Kootenai counties are at the top of the task force’s “red zone” designation. The red zone designates municipalities with new case rates above 100 per 100,000 and a test positivity rate above 10%. Ada, Canyon and Kootenai counties have combined for 76.3% of the state’s new cases in the past three weeks, according to the report, provided to the Idaho Press by the governor’s office.

The New York Times published the full report for all 50 states earlier this week.

Four Idaho cities also are in the red zone —Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls and Burley — as is Ontario, Oregon, which is on the Gem State’s western border.

The task force has a number of recommendations for the state to help reduce the surge of COVID-19 cases including:

• Bring testing and contract tracing to neighborhood and ZIP codes in the Central and Southwest health districts.

• Support mask mandates in affected counties and the Central Health District, which has a mask mandate in place for Ada County.

• Consider restricting the reopening guidelines for businesses and gatherings.

Along with those recommendations, the coronavirus task force suggests Idaho public officials tell people living in red zone counties and cities to wear masks at all times outside the home while maintaining social distancing. Along with those restrictions, the task force suggests officials move to limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, closing bars and gyms, institute weekly testing of workers in assisted living homes, providing isolation facilities for COVID-positive individuals and increasing access to testing in highly affected areas.

Gov. Brad Little has resisted implementing a statewide mask order as the most recent virus spike has spread across the state.

Earlier this week, Central District Health voted on new mask requirements in Ada County at universities, colleges and elementary schools.

“We are in the middle of the substantial spread of a major pandemic that is filling up our hospitals,” Central District Health board member Dr. Ted Epperly. “There is nothing in here that is a major regression, but it will clear up the confusion of what the public understands we are trying to do with masking.”

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