Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Friday called on the state’s residents to get vaccinated against Covid, citing concern about the delta variant and its potential to hinder economic progress.
“We’re just urging everybody to get vaccinated,” Little said on CNBC’s “The Exchange.”
Little said his biggest concern and “one of the most detrimental things” to the economy would be if children do not attend in-person school full-time in the fall and and parents stay home with them. “That will slow down the economy, so we want the vaccination rate to get up and protect our Idaho citizens,” said Little, a Republican who took office in 2019. He previously served as lieutenant governor.
Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, with about 46% of residents ages 12 and up fully vaccinated and nearly 51% having at least one dose, according to the state’s public health division. Both figures lag the national rate.
For the U.S. overall, 58% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated while 68% have had at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Half of the total American population is now fully vaccinated against Covid, a White House official tweeted Friday before the CDC posted the data on its website.
The number of daily cases is also on the rise in Idaho as the highly contagious delta variant ravages largely unvaccinated parts of the country.
Little has refrained from imposing a statewide mask mandate, although a few counties and about a dozen cities in Idaho have issued local requirements in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. In late May, Little rescinded an executive order barring mask mandates that Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin issued while he was away at a conference.
“I believe in empowering businesses and local government to do the right thing,” Little told CNBC. “We’re advocates of vaccination and doing whatever health protocols to keep the spread down, but we are very concerned about” the delta variant.
Little said he hopes more residents getting vaccinated demonstrates the benefits to those who are hesitant to get the shot. “Every day that goes by that more people are vaccinated and protected means that their neighbors, friends, family members are aware of that,” he said.
Despite the near-term Covid worries, Little said economic activity in Idaho remains strong. He noted that Idaho’s population is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S.
“We are concerned about the new variant and some more positivity rates, but we just got a great booming economy here right now,” he said.