Local action to stem coronavirus speeded up after the first confirmed local case was announced today, Saturday.

     Late in the day, officials closed local schools through Sunday, April 5. Kudos for that. This is the kind of decisive action needed to fight COVID-19, the new highly contagious virus.

     The Blaine County Commissioners, local city officials, health professionals, businesses and schools should stick together to continue to ramp up against the virus. The fight should be no holds barred.

     No one really knows how many local cases exist because of lack of testing. Containing the spread now will require residents and visitors to be vigilant about recommended hygiene and social-distancing practices. It will require additional concerted actions by local public officials, and businesses.

     Foremost, we must slow the spread locally so that St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center isn’t overwhelmed and its medical team can continue to treat all who need more intensive care as the numbers of infected people grow. Slowing contagion over coming months will give researchers time to develop a vaccine.

     Examples of effective measures in place at other medical centers include testing and screening staff, patients and visitors outside buildings before they enter main buildings. Also, remote video consultations between doctors and patients would help.

     On Saturday, reporters were screened before they met with President Trump in a press conference. An official took the temperature of every reporter that entered the room. One reporter with a slightly elevated temperature was turned away.

     What’s good for the president should be good for every American.

     Under Idaho law, cities have the power to enact ordinances to preserve public health, prevent introduction of contagious diseases into their city and to make and enforce quarantine laws within five miles of their cities (Idaho Code 50-304). Our cities should look at this and get going.

     Businesses can step up by taking their own preventative measures, and encouraging grocery and pharmacy delivery. This would prevent customers from sharing commercial spaces and surfaces where the virus may lurk.

     Every resident and visitor needs to take personal responsibility to stop the spread by meticulously practicing handwashing, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces and obeying what may be controversial public constraints put into place.

     We must quit ignoring the advice of health experts and use the power of local and state government to lock down the virus. Given the relative lack of action at the federal and state levels, our local governments need to continue to exercise the legal powers they possess in defense of citizens.

     With every day that goes by, the risk grows exponentially. Slow response will mean more virus victims, more deaths and more economic fallout. Best to confront the virus now with everything we have.

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