Idaho Governor Brad Little on Friday urged state residents to get vaccinated against Covid, citing concerns about the Delta variant and its potential to stifle economic progress.
“We’re just asking everyone to get vaccinated,” Little said on CNBC’s The Exchange.
Little said his biggest concern and “one of the most damaging things” to the economy would be if children don’t go to full-time school in the fall and parents stay at home with them. “This is going to slow the economy down, so we want the vaccination rate to go up and protect our Idaho citizens,” said Little, a Republican who took office in 2019. He was previously the lieutenant governor.
Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with around 46% of residents 12 and older being fully vaccinated and nearly 51% receiving at least one dose, according to the state’s public health department. Both numbers are behind the national value.
In the US as a whole, 58% of Americans 12 and older are fully vaccinated, while 68% received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Half of the entire American population is now fully vaccinated against Covid, a White House official tweeted Friday, before the CDC released the data on its website.
The number of daily cases is also increasing in Idaho as the highly contagious Delta variant devastates largely unvaccinated parts of the country.
Little has refrained from imposing a nationwide mask mandate, although some counties and a dozen or so cities in Idaho have enacted local requirements to help contain the spread of the virus. At the end of May, Little repealed an executive order excluding mask mandates that Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin had issued while he was at a conference.
“I believe in empowering businesses and local governments to do the right thing,” Little told CNBC. “We are advocates of vaccination and do all health protocols to contain the spread, but we are very concerned about” the Delta variant.
Little said he hopes more residents who get vaccinated will demonstrate the benefits to those who are reluctant to get the vaccination. “Every day that goes by that more people are vaccinated and protected means their neighbors, friends, family members are aware,” he said.
Despite short-term Covid worries, Little said Idaho’s economic activity continued to be strong. He noted that Idaho’s population is one of the fastest growing in the United States
“We’re worried about the new line and some more positivity rates, but we have a great booming economy here right now,” he said.