Idaho's Southwest District Health issued a Covid advisory Friday and urged people to follow social distancing guidelines and to wear masks. (The Enterprise/File).

FRUITLAND – Idaho residents living just across the border from Malheur County were urged by health officials Friday to adopt even more stringent limits as counties recorded ever-increasing numbers of Covid cases.

The Southwest District Health said people in six counties should avoid social gatherings, “including among family members who do not live in your household,” stop visits to care centers, work from home as possible and “minimize non-essential travel.”

The advisory echoed new guidance on Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which advised that families celebrate Thanksgiving only with those in their immediate households.

The advisory said businesses should switch to delivery or curbside services, churches should go with virtual services and sports activities should be discontinued where physical distancing isn’t possible.

Southwest District Health said in a press release said that its advisory prompted by “the continued surge in case counts, increasing demands on the healthcare system, and a backlog of cases that have required public health investigators and contact tracers to prioritize incoming case work.”

The advisory covers Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington Counties, three of which border Malheur County. 

Idaho has been one of only 13 states to not institute a mask mandate during the Covid pandemic. Idaho Gov. Brad Little has spoken out against both the principle and feasibility of enforcing one a mask mandate.

The health district’s recommendations aren’t legally enforceable mandates. Nonetheless, such strong advice marks a departure from the governor’s usual reticence on the subject of health guidelines for Covid.

Idaho’s Covid progress has been unraveling since Oct. 26, when the state regressed from Stage 4 of its reopening process to Stage 3. A further regression to Stage 2 followed on Nov. 14.

“The advisory aims to ensure health care capacity so our loved ones and neighbors can continue to access the routine, urgent, and emergency medical care they need as well as the public health capacity to ensure close contacts are notified of their exposure, rapid testing is available to our high-risk populations, and once available, the vaccine can be distributed and administered,” said Ashley Anderson, public information officer for Southwest District Health.

Idaho reported 87,978 total Covid cases Thursday, including 1,543 new cases and 853 deaths from the infection.

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