Governor covid testing small 1-11-22

Gov. Brad Little, left, spits in a cup for a saliva-based PCR test for COVID-19 early on the morning of Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, during an event co-sponsored by Boise State University and the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry for legislators, state officials, staff and more. The testing event replaced IACI's traditional reception for lawmakers on the first day of their legislative session.

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The morning of the first day of this year’s Idaho legislative session kicked off in an unusual manner – with a COVID-19 testing event co-sponsored by IACI and Boise State University, for legislators, state officials, staff and more. Gov. Brad Little, who was the first to receive the saliva-based PCR test at the event held across the street from the state Capitol, said, “I don’t know if it says anything that we’re going to start the legislative session by spitting. But it is going to be different. And we’re going to have to practice all kinds of safety protocols. So the awareness of this event is very, very important.”

Corey Surber of Saint Alphonsus, board chair of the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, said, “It really came together out of necessity. Normally, on the first day of the session, following the governor’s State of the State address, IACI would have a reception where we would pack 200 people into a room.”

“Well, in the reality of 2021, we’re unable to do that, but we wanted to do something and something meaningful,” she said. “We think that starting the 2021 legislative session with an air of awareness of the situation that we’re in, information is good. And we want this session to be productive, hopefully brief, but above all safe for everyone.”

BSU President Marlene Tromp said, “We are so proud this morning to partner with IACI. It’s such an important time to collaborate, whenever we face challenges as a nation as a state, as a community. … This year we reopened our campus when many universities stayed closed, and that’s partly because we were able to move nimbly and quickly to create the kinds of testing protocols that we are providing as a service to our state legislators this year. We’re very proud that our (COVID testing) facility is run by our students in collaboration with health care leaders, and it gives our students an opportunity to learn and grow and be leaders themselves when they graduate.”

The testing is the same type that BSU has been doing with its football team; Alex LaBeau, IACI CEO, said results should be out to those tested before the end of the day today.

Little, accompanied by staff, was the first to go through the testing, first slathering his hands with hand sanitizer, then removing his mask and spitting into a cup. After that, the governor was directed to close the container and take it to the next station for collection, then guided into a room with coffee and cookies. Asked what he thought of the testing event as opposed to the annual reception hosted by the business lobbying group, Little said, “I’d rather have the IACI reception, but it’s a good signal that things are different.”

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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