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Idaho Governor Defends Covid Emergency Declaration, Criticizes Legislative Pushback

Idaho Public TV screenshot

UPDATED: Friday, 3 pm with response from Idaho House Republicans. 

Idaho’s governor today [Friday] blasted legislative leaders who are pressuring him to end the state’s 10-month-old emergency declaration because of the coronavirus.

Those leaders believe the governor has overstepped his power. They’re proposing a variety of bills aimed at moving some of his emergency authority to the legislature.

In a statewide address Friday, Little argued the emergency is still justified as Idaho works to distribute Covid vaccine to communities around the state.

“Every single state has an active emergency declaration in place to respond to Covid-19. President Trump issued two emergency declarations that remain in effect today," he said.

The governor argues Idaho’s declaration has helped the Gem State receive millions of dollars in outside aid that have helped the state fund its pandemic response. Ending that now, he said, would require the state find money from its own coffers to buy more vaccine.

Idaho National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mike Garshak says the disaster declaration has allowed his people to provide support, such as distributing food and vaccines and performing Covid tests and vaccines.

“Guard support has allowed Idaho’s most highly-trained and skilled health care professionals to focus on direct patient care, while our soldiers and airmen carry out many of the Covid-related administrative and support functions, reducing strain on providers and staff, allowing them to deliver the best possible care to our citizens," Garshak said.

He says he’s planning to activate another 200 guard members to help the state distribute and administer Covid vaccine around the state. He says pulling the disaster declaration would require the guard to leave that mission.

Little asked Gem State residents to contact their legislators and urge them not to take away what he calls “one of the state’s strongest tools in the pandemic fight.”

Idaho House Republican leaders issued a statement Friday afternoon: "Members of the House Republican Caucus will continue to work to address the concerns of the Idaho families whom they represent. The inflammatory comments from the Governor’s office do nothing but complicate the process.  The life-altering concerns revolving around the COVID-19 emergency continue to be in the front of our minds. Our members are working on various forms of legislation to help the state on its road to the recovery that Idahoans have been demanding for months and we call on the Governor to work with us in this process."