MALAD — The chairman of the Oneida County Commission says he left a message with Gov. Brad Little’s office asking for the sale of Idaho Lottery tickets to be classified as non-essential for the state’s shelter-in-place order meant to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Chairman Bill Lewis said he receives 10 calls on an average day, mostly from his county’s residents, expressing concern about the virus being spread by Utah residents who cross the state line to buy Idaho Lottery tickets.
Oneida is one of four Idaho counties bordering Utah, a state that bans gambling and is one of the last remaining states without a statewide shelter-in-place order.
Oneida County, which has around 5,000 residents, is one of 12 Idaho counties without a confirmed coronavirus case as of Thursday. Nearby Box Elder County, Utah, reported 12 cases, and Utah had more than 1,500 cases statewide as of Thursday.
“I’m concerned the virus might come from the outside because we have had no citizens to this date that I know of who have tested positive for COVID-19,” Lewis said. “We don’t know where this is going to come from, but we want to slow the spread.”
Lewis said he left a voicemail at the governor’s office asking to list the lottery as non-essential. He also emailed state Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs, and state Reps. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, and Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, with the same message.
He said the lawmakers assured him they concur with his sentiments.
“According to their communication, they have asked for this many times, saying that it’s not essential,” Lewis said. “But it doesn’t appear to be a listening ear on the other end or they’re just not as serious as we are about that subject.”
Lewis made a Facebook post recently asking his county’s residents to bring up their concerns about the issue with elected officials.
“I just made a blanket statement. This is who needs to hear from you if this is a concern,” Lewis said. “One voice does not ring as loud as many voices and that’s why I put it on Facebook. If you think this is a problem, then here’s who you need to reach out to.”
Marissa Morrison Hyer, the Idaho governor’s office press secretary, stated in an email to the Journal that she isn’t aware of Gov. Little giving any consideration to limiting the sale of Idaho Lottery tickets under his shelter-in-place order.
Lewis said the County Commission approved a resolution for a Declaration of Emergency based on coronavirus on March 17.
The state’s shelter-in-place order, scheduled to continue through at least April 15, requires non-essential businesses to close, such as hair and nail salons. Restaurants can remain open but are not allowed to offer dine-in service.
“Going into a convenience store and purchasing food, pop, chips, gas — that’s an essential service,” Lewis said. “The one area that I think is non-essential is lottery tickets.”