Coronavirus outbreak in Idaho state House prompts weeks-long recess: Report

The Idaho Legislature is closing up shop for more than two weeks after several members of the state House contracted the coronavirus, the Associated Press reports.

Both the Idaho state House and Senate voted Friday to recess until at least April 6 in response to the apparent outbreak.

New cases of COVID

According to the AP, the unexpected recess comes after at least six of the 70 members of Idaho’s House of Representatives tested positive for COVID-19.

Reports indicated that five of those who tested positive were Republicans, while one was a Democrat. Previously, two members of the state Senate had come down with the coronavirus, but later recovered, the AP said, adding that “a handful of House and Senate staffers also are known to have contracted the virus this session.”

Reports from The Hill and elsewhere drew attention to the fact that “several” GOP members of the state legislature had “declined to wear masks during in-person sessions.” The AP said:

The [state House] has a super-majority of 58 Republicans, most of whom rarely or never wear masks. All the Democratic lawmakers typically wear masks.

Notably, face masks are not required on the House or Senate floor.

Taking “a step back”

Ahead of the Friday vote to recess through the end of the month, Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R) said shutting down the legislature would be “prudent” in light of the half-dozen diagnoses.

“The House has had several positive tests, so it is probably prudent that the House take a step back for a couple weeks until things calm down and it’s not hot around here for COVID,” he said, according to the AP.

The recess will put a damper on work on several key agenda items in the state legislature, including budgets and a “huge income tax cut,” the AP reported. Now, that will all be put on hold until April at the earliest.

A race against the clock

The development comes as the Biden administration continues to move forward with the distribution of multiple vaccines for the novel coronavirus disease, which has infected nearly 30 million Americans since the beginning of 2020 and killed over 540,000, according to The New York Times. The president recently hit his less-than-ambitious goal of vaccinating 100 million people against COVID-19 in his first 100 days in office, and he’s now poised to soon set a new target, as the AP reported separately.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top medical adviser, has warned against complacency in the meantime, prompting some strong rebukes from Republican lawmakers in Washington.

“It really is going to be a race between the vaccine and the potential surge,” Fauci told NBC News last week, according to Politico.

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