March 18, 2020
As I write to you today, Idaho has nine confirmed coronavirus cases. Less than a week ago, we had zero. I mention this not to raise panic, but to remind people how quickly this situation is evolving. Idaho was one of the very last states to report its first confirmed positive COVID-19 case. That means we in Idaho have critical time to prepare for the coming days and weeks and learn from other communities’ responses.
Back home in Idaho, Governor Little and our state and local officials have acted quickly to make disruptive but necessary changes to address this unprecedented situation. I commend Governor Little’s leadership as we move through these uncertain times.
The measures the CDC is recommending may seem drastic, but we know from watching the responses of other countries who are grappling with serious COVID-19 outbreaks that preventative actions like social distancing are the best way to flatten the curve and protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Now, more than ever, is the time to be a good neighbor to your fellow Idahoans. Create a household action plan, avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people, and practice good hygiene. If you are in the high-risk population (if you are elderly or have a serious underlying health condition), stay home and away from people as much as possible. The preventative measures we take today could mean the difference between life and death for members of our community.
During this uncertain time, my commitment to you is to continue making the health and safety of all Idahoans my number one priority. Today, I voted in support of a second bipartisan coronavirus emergency funding bill. This supplemental package, along with the first coronavirus supplemental bill enacted earlier this month, will deliver urgently needed relief to Idaho’s families, businesses and communities. For Idahoans, this means:
- Funding for additional test kits.
- Funding to help cover the cost of coronavirus testing.
- Paid sick and family leave for companies with fewer than 500 employees, with exemptions offered for businesses with under 50 employees.
- Assistance for employees who are unable to work (including telework) due to a COVID-19-related school or child care closure.
- Food assistance for the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Vicki and I are praying for all those who have been impacted by COVID-19 as well as those who are at higher risk of contracting the virus. Our hearts are with the small business owners and their employees across Idaho whose livelihoods are at stake due to the coronavirus, and we continue to pray for all of Idaho’s outstanding health care workers on the front lines during this unprecedented event. We thank you for your tireless work to keep others safe.
As this outbreak continues, my office will remain available for legislative work and constituent service and to continue advocating for those impacted by the virus. For more information and resources about the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the CDC COVID-19 website or visit the State of Idaho COVID-19 website. If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness and have reason to believe you may have been exposed to the virus, contact your primary care physician or call 2-1-1.
We are Americans. We know how to do these things. Together, we will get through this. God bless you and your family, and God bless the United States of America.
James E. Risch
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