Brad Little 7.23 Press conference

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Gov. Brad Little announced this morning that Idaho will stay in Stage 4 of its reopening plan for at least another two weeks, and said he’s working with public health district directors across the state on state-local collaboration to deal with the swelling coronavirus pandemic.

“When it comes to our public health response, our plans for school reopening, and our support for businesses across Idaho, we are focused on working closely with local officials and local leaders,” the governor said at a press conference at Central District Health offices in Boise. “Strong state-local collaboration is needed to protect Idahoans’ health, get our kids safely back to school, and continue our economic rebound.”

The governor’s comments came after Idaho’s deadliest day of the pandemic so far, with nine deaths reported on Wednesday.

He said he's traveling to four public health districts around the state today to stress the need for collaboration.

"We are not where we want to be," Little said. "We have many things in place to get us where we need to be, with increased testing, contact tracing, availability of PPE for health care workers, businesses and schools, but the one thing that will dramatically slow the spread of virus is for every single one of us to wear a mask."

"I couldn’t agree with President Trump more: Wearing a mask is the patriotic thing to do," Little said.

Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist, said, "We saw a definite increase in our emergency department visits for COVID-like illness, which is one of our show-stoppers as far as advancing."

Idaho saw nine new deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, marking the pandemic's deadliest day so far and pushing the total deaths from COVID-19 statewide so far up to 135. Of the new deaths, five were in Ada County, two were in Canyon County, and there was one each in Twin Falls and Blaine counties. Overall, Idaho saw 500 new infections on Wednesday, 461 of them lab-confirmed and 39 classified as probable, which means they're people who've been exposed to a confirmed case and are showing the same symptoms. Ada County had 228 new cases on Wednesday; Canyon, 22. The statewide total is now up to 16,322.

There were also 33 new infections among health care workers reported Wednesday, for a total to date of 980; and the number hospitalized for COVID-19 jumped up another 18 to 674. Idaho now has just two of its 44 counties that have yet to see a COVID-19 case.

You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), where it will continue to be updated, or pick up tomorrow's edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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