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Idaho coronavirus updates: Coeur d'Alene playgrounds temporarily closed

Gov. Little also ordered the closure of all dine-in restaurants in Idaho. Non-essential businesses must also close.

KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho — The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread in Idaho amid a wordwide pandemic.  

KREM is continuing to track Idaho news and updates regarding COVID-19 and what local officials are doing to prevent its spread. 

Scroll down for the latest updates to this live blog.

Facts: 

Thursday, March 26

7 p.m.: Public lab tests are free, focused on health care workers and hospitalized

Governor Little and state health officials said during a special on Idaho Public Television that tests being done in the state's public health lab are free, but are also focused on health care workers and those who are hospitalized.

The state is also ramping up their public testing, the officials said. 

4:30 p.m.: Playground structures within City of Coeur d’Alene parks have been temporarily closed in a move to slow the potential spread of the COVID-19.

The parks themselves remain open. 

Basketball hoops have been removed for the time being and the skateboard park has also been closed.

Park paths and walkways remain open, but residents are encouraged to maintain six feet of separation from other people. 

12:40 p.m.: The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) and two local public health districts are reporting the state’s first three deaths related to COVID-19.

They are:

  • A man over the age of 60 from Blaine County. It is not clear if he had underlying health issues.
  • A man over the age of 80 from Blaine County. It is not clear if he had underlying health issues.
  • A man over the age of 70 from Canyon County with underlying health issues.

“This is very sad news, and we send our condolences to the families and friends of each of these individuals,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the Division of Public Health in DHW. “This underscores the importance of Gov. Little’s order to stay home – we all have to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”

12:07 p.m.: The Panhandle Health District (PHD) and Kootenai Health have confirmed one additional case of novel coronavirus in Kootenai County.

The latest patient is a woman in her 50s from Kootenai County. She is self isolating at home.  

10:28 a.m.: Sen. Mike Crapo to close Idaho offices

Senator Mike Crapo is closing his state offices. All staff will now be working from home. He has already implemented a work-from-home policy with his D.C. staff.

Wednesday, March 25

12:30 p.m.: Gov. Brad Little issues statewide stay-at home order, signs 'extreme emergency declaration'

Idaho Gov. Brad Little has issued a "stay-at-home" order for all of Idaho, requiring everyone in the state to self-isolate at home if possible. The order applies to all citizens, not just those who are sick.

"Following the guidance of our public health experts, today, I will be issuing a statewide stay home order for all of Idaho," Little said. "From the get to, our focus has been to slow the spread of coronavirus to protect our most vulnerable citizens and preserve capacity in our health care system."

The order is currently in effect for 21 days, at which time Little said he and other public health experts will decide on extending the order. Little said that community spread in Blaine County played a large role in the decision.

Health officials also announced at the press conference that 7.7% of tests in Idaho have come back positive.

Healthcare workers, public safety workers, and other "essential" workers may still go to work, and people will be allowed to leave their homes to obtain or provide essential services.

Little also ordered the closure of all dine-in restaurants in the state, although drive-through and delivery will still be allowed. "Non-essential" businesses like gyms, bars, salons and convention centers must closed.

Essential businesses involve anybody serving or providing food, anything in the public safety area and other businesses such as car repair shops, Little said.

Little also announced he was signing a new "extreme" emergency declaration that would be aimed at providing economic relief for citizens, such as easing the process of receiving unemployment and possibly implementing eviction protections.

"Our state and our country is going through difficult times," Little said.

The rules would be mostly enforced through voluntary compliance, Little said, adding that peer pressure would be a big part of it.

"Peer pressure from the communities is always our first preference," Little said. 

He also added that it will be enforced on a case-by-case basis, and that law enforcement will be looking out for whats best for public safety.

"I don't think if you're out for a walk and you're five-and-a-half feet from someone that you're going to get arrested," Little said. "I think it's all relative to what's best for public safety."

On the medical front, Little said one shipment of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) has arrived in the state and another was on the way. He also said the Department of Agriculture has given the Department of Health some of its masks to be used by health care workers. He also said he expects testing to ramp up in the coming weeks to better meet demands.

The Idaho National Guard is also preparing to assist local communities with needs or if they are starting to be overrun during the coronavirus outbreak, according to Little and an Idaho National Guard official.

Little also offered hope that Idaho would be able to handle the outbreak and get through it if people do their part.

"We will get through this together, as long as we all play an active role in stopping the spread of coronavirus," Little said.

Information on the stay home order will be available starting the evening of March 25 at coronavirus.idaho.gov, according to Little.

12:10 p.m.: Effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 26, 2020, the City of Lewiston has issued Public Health Emergency Order that orders the closure of bars and restaurants’ dine-in operations through April 6. 

This does not include drive-thru, delivery or takeout options for facilities. 

Ten-minute parking is available downtown that is dedicated for takeout orders.

Noon: Panhandle Health District announces additional case of COVID-19 in Kootenai County, bringing the total number of cases in North Idaho to nine.

Case 9: Male in his 40s from Kootenai County. He is self-isolating at home. Contact tracing is ongoing.

Eight out of the nine cases that have been confirmed in the Panhandle appear to be travel related, health officials said. One case appears to be community transmission as health officials have not found a link to travel or contact with a confirmed case. 

Community transmission is defined as illness within a community that lacks connection to travel or other confirmed cases.

Tuesday, March 24

8:33 p.m. - Nez Perce County confirms its first case, according to Idaho North Central Health District.

12:20 p.m.: The Panhandle Health District and Kootenai Health confirm two new coronavirus cases bringing total to eight

A woman in her 20s and a man in his 60s have tested positive for the virus. Health officials said they are both self-isolating at home and contact tracing is ongoing.

Monday, March 23

5:49 p.m: Idaho State Board of Education orders all schools to implement soft closures until April 20

The ISBOE has directed all school districts in the state to close until April 20.

In a statement, the board said schools need to follow CDC guidelines on social distancing and large gatherings, and "while students are not permitted in schools, the State Board expects efforts to continue facilitating essential services and student learning."

School districts have also been directed to continue essential services, such as providing food and childcare, and to create remote learning plans. Districts are also to make a plan to deliver special education services.

3 p.m: Gov. Brad Little eases requirements for out-of-state medical providers

Idaho Governor Brad Little held a press conference to give updates on the coronavirus outbreak in the state. Little described temporary waivers issued on certain healthcare provider rules, which he said allows out-of-state providers to see patients via telehealth resources. 

Little also said rules have been eased to make it easier for retired nurses and physicians to come back into active practice during the outbreak.

Idahoans will also see relief on tax deadlines, with the state tax filing deadline and payment deadlines being extended 60 days until June 15. This also will serve as the new deadline for applications for property tax reductions, property tax referrals and the 100% Service Connected Veterans Disability Benefits program.

Little reiterated guidelines by health agencies to practice social distancing and to self-isolate if a person is sick or came into contact with an indivudal exposed to coronavirus or an area with a high number of cases.

He also said he was encouraged by how many people have been practicing preventative measures.

"This is a very challenging and uncertain time, but together, we will get through it," Little said.

He also signed a proclamation about the health waivers at the conference.

Sunday, March 22

10:48 a.m: The Panhandle Health District and Kootenai Health have confirmed three additional confirmed cases, bringing the total number of cases to six.

Case 4: A woman under the age of 18 from Kootenai County. She is self-isolating at home.

Case 5: A man in his 30s from Kootenai County. The individual has been self-isolating at home. 

Case 6: A woman in her 30s from Kootenai County. She is currently self-isolating at home. 

Saturday, March 21

10:25 a.m.: Rathdrum, Hayden, Coeur d'Alene and Post falls announced they are temporarily shutting down all restaurants and bars in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The ordinance went into effect at 12 a.m. on Monday, March 23, for 14 days unless extended, terminated or modified. 

During that time, all bars, taverns, nightclubs, private liquor clubs, taprooms, tasting rooms, mobile bars, cabarets and saloons, as well as all other alcohol-licensed premises for by the glass sales of alcoholic beverages shall close to members, guests, patrons, customers, and the general public. 

All restaurants and dine-in food service, whether inside or outside the establishment, is prohibited. Take-out and delivery are allowed.

RELATED: Four North Idaho cities close restaurants, bars on Monday due to COVID-19

Friday, March 20

1:40 p.m.: Panhandle Health District confirms two new cases of coronavirus in Kootenai County, bringing total to three. 

The first case announced on Thursday is a man in his 60s from Kootenai County. He experienced mild symptoms and is self-isolating out of state.

The second case announced on Friday is a man under the age of 30 from Kootenai County. He has been self-isolating since returning from travel and has experienced mild symptoms.

The third case is a woman in her 60s from Kootenai County with mild symptoms. She is currently self-isolating and recovering at home. 

This brings the total number of cases in Idaho to 25.

Epidemiologists with PHD are working to investigate cases of possible contact. If other people are found to have been exposed, health officials will provide guidance to these individuals and monitor them closely for the development of symptoms. 

1:30 p.m. - Governor Brad Little address media about coronavirus response

Idaho Governor Brad Little spoke with reporters on Friday about the state's coronavirus response, speaking about what actions may be taken in the future.

Little said Idaho has been following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"I think we've been following the best science all along," Little said.

Residents in Blaine County have been directed to self-isolate as much as possible, but Little said decisions in other parts of the state will be made on an "area-by-area" basis.

As for breathing masks, Little said the state has a central inventory system for public and private health care providers, and that more than 30 million masks are expected to be made available nationwide, some of which were industrial masks that were found to be effective against coronavirus. Little also said this influx of masks should help against profiteering and hoarding.

At this point, Little said he is monitoring the situation, but there isn't a set date for when restaurants and bars may be closed and forced to only do take-out or delivery. He did ask people to avoid eating in groups of ten or more.

Coronavirus tests have been a hot topic, and Little said "everyone who wants to get tested can get tested" in the future, but he and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director David Jeppesen added that the tests at the moment should be reserved for those who need them the most, which are the elderly and immunocompromised.

Little also said that most homeless people that weren't eligible for medicaid before have recently been added. 

11:26 a.m. - North Idaho College to moves online after spring break

North Idaho College announced via tweet on Friday that it would be moving all classes online and closing all campus building starting on April 6, which is the college's first day back to class after its spring break, which starts on March 23.

The college also canceled spring commencement.

Thursday, March 19 

3:25 p.m. - University of Idaho cancels spring 2020 commencement

University of Idaho President Scott Green announced that all university classes will be delivered online for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, as well as the cancellation of the spring 2020 commencement ceremony. See more on the University of Idaho website. 

3 p.m.: Kootenai County Office of Emergency Management asks for assistance

The Kootenai County Emergency Operations Center has been activated as the first case of COVID-19 in the Idaho Panhandle was announced on Thursday.

Emergency management leaders said supplies are becoming strained and they asked the public for the support. 

Those who can help and are willing to donate to our Fire/EMS/Law Enforcement agencies, please call 208-446-2292 or email eoclog@gmail.com.

Items needed include hand sanitizer, paper towels, sanitizing wipes and disinfectant spray.

2 p.m.: Health officials announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Idaho Panhandle.

Epidemiologists with the Panhandle Health District are working on contact tracing, which means they are working to identify any close contacts who may have been exposed. Health officials will provide guidance to them and monitor them closely for symptoms. 

Health leaders said the patient is a man in his 60s who is not hospitalized and is self-isolating in another state. They told KREM's Taylor Viydo that they were not at liberty to discuss specifics, but added that he had "extensive travel history." 

Watch full press conference with health leaders in North Idaho

The patient, who was tested at Kootenai Health, is doing well and experiencing only mild symptoms, according to Panhandle Health. The test results came back on Thursday morning. 

Health leaders said they are seeing difficulties in the turnaround time for test results, but they are experiencing less testing delays than other areas.

They added that 150 patients per day have been tested for the past few days, with a few hundred test results still pending. Many test results in North Idaho have come back negative.

Health leaders stressed that people must have a doctor's note to be tested, adding that there is not a public testing facility. 

At this time, leaders are not mandating the closure of businesses, restaurants and bars in Idaho, adding that they have no plans to do so. Businesses have been urged to practice social distancing.

Washington state has already enacted social distancing measures, such as temporarily shutting down bars and restaurants and further limiting the size of gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak. 

RELATED: Why Gov. Inslee has not ordered Washington residents to 'shelter in place'

Health leaders also urged that people reschedule elective surgeries at area hospitals. 

Kootenai County EMS Chief Chris Way reminded residents that “it is important to support each other and our susceptible population during this time."

"We ask that you still only call 911 for medical emergencies and utilize the Panhandle Health 1-877-415-5225 number for COVID-19 inquires. We continue to monitor the situation as mentioned above and are ready to respond," he said. 

Health leaders also addressed misinformation on Thursday, saying a test site is not available at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. 

1:23 p.m. : Community spread confirmed in south central Idaho

South Central Public Health District (SCPHD) and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) have confirmed a case of the 2019 novel coronavirus with no out-of-state travel or identified contact with another person with COVID-19.

The case was announced Wednesday, March 18, in a press release. The individual is a male from Blaine County in his 40s. He presented very mild symptoms and is recovering at home.

Community spread means at least one person has been infected with the virus in an area who is not sure how or where they became infected. The individual under investigation did not travel and had no identified contact with another person with COVID-19. Public Health officials expect more confirmed cases in the community.

Wednesday, March 18

7:06 p.m. - Idaho Department of Labor to close its office until April 3

The department is closing its offices to public access for a minimum of 15 days. The closure starts on Thursday, March 19.

Idaho residents can access the agency’s services online and over the phone using the following methods:

  • 6:16 p.m. - Two new cases of novel coronavirus in south central Idaho
  • South Central Public Health District and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare have confirmed two additional cases of novel coronavirus in South-Central Idaho. These are the fourth and fifth cases for that district, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Idaho to 11.
  • One is a man in his 80s from Twin Falls County. He was briefly hospitalized, but is now recovering well at home.
  • The second is a man in his 40s from Blaine County. He has very mild symptoms and is also recovering well at home.
  • Investigations into both new cases began Wednesday afternoon and are in their primary stages.
  • See details of all Idaho confirmed coronavirus cases with our interactive map.

RELATED: North Idaho school districts close as coronavirus precaution

10:13 a.m. - No evidence yet of community coronavirus spread in Idaho 

Idaho State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said there currently isn’t any evidence of community transmission of COVID-19 in Idaho, but they are getting new cases every day and “we know that’s going to change at some point.“

10:04 a.m. - Little announces new Idaho COVID-19 guidelines

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said Idaho will adopt the CDC’s latest guidelines involving a 15 day timeline to slow the spread of COVID-19. Through the end of the month he encourages Idahoans to:

  • Not visit nursing homes, retirement homes or long-term care facilities unless it’s to provide critical assistance
  • Avoid discretionary travel
  • Avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people
  • Work from home whenever possible
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Take advantage of many delivery or pick-up options for food

Little is not mandating categorical closures of schools or other establishments at this time, he said, and is leaving it up to local leaders and operators of facilities.

“It is critical for Idahoans to stay home” if they feel sick, Little said.

Little also said they were looking at childcare options and considered it a critical issue. He said they were looking at needs and options, including licensing flexibility.

RELATED: Map of Idaho confirmed coronavirus cases: What we know about each confirmed case in Idaho

Little: Don't hoard groceries, stores will remain open and be restocked

He also reminded Idahoans to not hoard groceries and household products. "America’s supply chain is the strongest in the world. Grocery stores will stay open and will be continually restocked," Little said. "Shop for your needs and no more. You are potentially harming your neighbor when you take more than you need."

10 a.m. -- Gov. Brad Little started a press conference on the latest coronavirus updates.

8:30 a.m. - The State of Idaho says 468 people have been tested in Idaho either through the state lab or through a commercial lab. Thirty-five people are being monitored by the state.

Tuesday, March 17

6:31 p.m. - South Central Public Health District announces a fourth confirmed case of the coronavirus in Blaine County. The patient is over the age of 80 and is isolated at a hospital. How she got it is unknown.

6:05 p.m. - Eastern Idaho Public Health announced that the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Madison County is a BYU-Idaho student. The man, who is in his 20s, started feeling ill before traveling back to Idaho.

9:46 a.m.- Central District Health confirms 7 total cases of COVID-19 in Idaho

Central District Health received confirmation on Tuesday that the third case of COVID-19 has been found in Ada County. According to documents, the patient is a female under the age of 50. Officials from CHD said the patient displayed mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization.

According to CHD, the patient has not been associated with any confirmed cases in Idaho and may have been in contact through travel-related interaction.

The third confirmed case in Blaine County is a female over the age of 50. Officials from the South Central Public Health District said the woman self-isolated once she began showing symptoms, did not require hospitalization and is in her home recovering well.

RELATED: Should I order takeout? Is it safe to grocery shop? Your coronavirus questions answered

Coronavirus: Facts not fear