Coronavirus liability shield extension bill introduced in Senate


BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislation headed to the Idaho Senate Monday to extend a legal shield to Idaho businesses, schools and government entities from being sued if someone catches COVID-19.

The House voted 70-0 to approve the measure which, for the second time, would expand an immunity from liability law supporters say is needed as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The immunity shield expires this summer unless lawmakers approve the extension until July 1, 2023.

The Immunity Shield Act was originally passed in 2020 in a special session called by Republican Gov. Brad Little. The legislation sparked protests at the Statehouse amid fears it would protect bad actors in government, turning the three-day special session into a chaotic event that saw anti-government activist Ammon Bundy twice arrested. Bundy is now running for governor.

“This piece of legislative language was a carefully crafted compromise that emerged from the crucible of the 2020 Special Session,” Republican Rep. Julianne Young said.

No one spoke against the measure.

Idaho is experiencing its biggest coronavirus surge since the pandemic began, straining the healthcare system amid the omicron variant.

Little said Monday that 75 Idaho National Guardsmen will assist the Primary Health Care Group and the Idaho Department of Correction. Another 503 staff will be sent to Idaho hospitals under a state contract. This is the fourth time the guard has been deployed by Little since the pandemic began.

The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects people who have been vaccinated or previously infected with earlier versions of the virus. However, early studies show that omicron is less likely to cause severe disease than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still provide strong protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

State officials say about 4,400 people have died in Idaho from COVID-19. Only about 52% of Idaho’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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