BOISE — Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday said he's "anxious to get the economy going," but also understands that without good public health policy being followed, people won't feel comfortable returning to old economic habits.
The governor took questions from residents during his weekly COVID-19 update call co-hosted by AARP Idaho.
"We believe we are in pretty good shape," Little said, 12 days into phase 1 of his four-stage reopening plan.
The state is working to expand its contact tracing capacity, Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told the call's listeners, an exponential task that will use $7 million from the CARES Act to fund up to 255 contact tracers, up from 23 available two months ago. And along with that contact tracing will be another expansion of testing capability, Jeppesen said.
Little said that Idaho does not yet have the capacity to test everyone in the state, but did note that more testing was on the way.
Idaho had 14 new cases confirmed over the past weekend, and the curve has continued to stay flat, with new confirmed cases declining over the past week. Of the 2,260 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases in the state, 1,508 have recovered, according to coronavirus.idaho.gov.
Those numbers are confirmed and reported about two weeks after a person was infected, Little said, which is why the state is using 15-day increments to phase its reopening plan.
"I've been trying to convince my friends, the mayors, that they have to have consumer confidence, and if people don't feel safe, there is no consumer confidence," Little said Tuesday during his weekly Q&A call with AARP Idaho. Tuesday in response to a Caldwell woman's concerns about the lack of social distancing in her city. "Some of my friends say economic concerns and health care are separate, but I say, no, no, they are the same."
That connection between economic and health care concerns will determine much about the state's ability to safely move on to the next levels of phased reopening, as well as determining if another spike in cases will be on the way.
"From my view, we don't want a second wave," Little said. "Director Jeppesen and I will tell people to continue with their incredible self-safety, for their selves, neighbors and families."
The governor noted that about one-third of American adults have asthma, a risk factor for more serious COVID-19 outcomes, and that that number of people couldn't simply be isolated. He did express hope that time would help the response to the virus.
"I didn't even know what social distancing was until about 80 days ago," Little said. "Now the science is better, our health care is better."
Stage 2 of reopening is slated to start Saturday. Little will hold a press conference Thursday to announce whether or not the state is prepared to move forward.