ISJ logo

Over 1,600 Idahoans have contracted the coronavirus and more than 40 of those individuals have died.

Those numbers, though concerning, pale in comparison to New York’s over 222,000 confirmed cases, New Jersey’s over 75,000 confirmed cases or the many states that are closing in on 30,000 confirmed cases.

About 31,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 so far and that number is going to continue to rise for the foreseeable future.

Clearly, the coronavirus has not been as deadly or prevalent in Idaho as it has elsewhere and that’s just one of the reasons why many if not most of the state’s Republican lawmakers are disappointed in Republican Gov. Brad Little’s decision this past Wednesday to extend the state’s stay-home order to April 30.

The Republican lawmakers are absolutely correct in saying that the order is taking a heavy toll on Idaho’s economy with many state residents being out of work because of the many Idaho businesses that have shut down or reduced operations because of the virus.

On Thursday, the Idaho Department of Labor reported that “Idahoans filed more initial claims for unemployment benefits in the four weeks since the (coronavirus) state of emergency was declared — 95,961 — than the total filed during all 2019 by 60 percent.”

Media reports indicate that Idaho’s unemployment rate is now higher than at any other point in the state’s history.

Idaho’s GOP legislators were expecting Little to at least significantly soften the stay-home order on Wednesday and the fact that didn’t happen has them threatening to hold a special session of the Legislature to open the state back up for business.

Our state’s governor is in the unenviable position of having to balance the state’s economic needs with the fact that COVID-19 kills people. It’s a conundrum all of us are faced with to some extent these days as we try to balance our lives with the new normal the virus has created, but Little is in the driver’s seat for the entire state.

He correctly is willing to weather the economic hardships caused by the virus rather than do anything to increase the virus’s toll in terms of death and suffering on Idahoans. Economies recover. Dead people stay buried.

Anyone who pays attention to the national news knows that every day in New York City alone hundreds of people are dying from this virus.

It’s not a joke and the public health concerns about it should outweigh temporary business closures.

In fact, anyone who studies the virus and takes a hard look at Little’s stay-home order for the state could conclude that the governor isn’t doing enough to protect Idaho residents.

Driving down Yellowstone Avenue in Pocatello, it’s easy to see that there are no shortage of businesses that are allowed to legally remain open during this pandemic and the traffic is not much lighter than under normal circumstances. People are definitely out and about.

Any teeth that Little’s order had when he declared it last month were lost when pretty much every law enforcement agency in the state responded with press releases saying that they would not be pulling over people and asking them why they were not hunkered down at home as the governor requested.

Locally, health officials have had a pretty soft touch in terms of enforcing the stay-home order on those businesses such as gyms and hair salons that are prohibited from being open. The police haven’t had to be called in to shut down any local establishments, according to Southeastern Idaho Public Health.

Other states have stay-home orders that more resemble martial law, but Idaho’s order is about as gentle as it could get.

Little will revisit his order on April 30 and if the virus situation in Idaho doesn’t worsen between now and then, we can see him rolling the order back substantially.

That decision should be based on the public health crisis that this virus presents much more than the state’s economy.

Being part of an industry that’s been negatively impacted by the virus, the Idaho State Journal understands the economic worries being expressed by the Republican legislators.

We are in the same camp as the lawmakers and everyone else in desperately wanting the state’s economy to return to normal.

But this virus needs to be taken seriously and we’re thankful we have a governor in Brad Little who’s putting lives before business profits.