UPDATE: Little sets 4-stage plan to reopen Idaho businesses over 2 months by end of June
John Sowell, Idaho Statesman
Published at | Updated at
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Gov. Brad Little on Thursday laid out a four-stage plan to reopen Idaho businesses from the coronavirus lockdown and return the state to a semblance of normalcy by the end of June.
Almost all retail stores and houses of worship would open in the first stage, May 1 to 15. Restaurants and hair salons would open in the second stage, May 16 to 29. Gatherings of up to 50 people would be allowed in the third, May 30 to June 12. Bars would reopen in the fourth, June 13 to 26.
“We know that we cannot reopen everything at once, and undo all the progress to prevent coronavirus deaths,” Little said during a news conference. “We do have a plan to safely and responsibly reopen our economy in stages, just as the president recommends.”
Little said the dates attached to the timetable are tentative and subject to continued adherence to social-distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing practices that authorities have urged since COVID-19’s spread led him to declare an emergency, and later to order people to stay at home, last month.
He rejected the idea of implementing different stages at the same time in various parts of the state. He said people would drive from one town where restaurants were closed to another spot where they were open, potentially spreading the coronavirus farther.
He noted that Washington residents are crowding Idaho parks since their own park system has been shut down.
The move from one stage to the next will require a downward trend or low numbers of COVID-19 illness or symptoms, according to an online summary of Little’s plan. Decisions will be made every two weeks, he said.
“We cannot and will not progress through the stages of the opening if people do not continue to take personal measures to limit their exposure to coronavirus,” Little said.
“That means for you to continue to stay at home as much as you can to keep us safe: social distancing of 6 feet between you and others who are not members of your household, wear protective face coverings in public place, wash you hands as recommended.”
As of Wednesday, Idaho has reported 54 deaths and 1,693 confirmed cases due to the coronavirus pandemic. The governor said the state won’t get back to normal “until we have a vaccine.”
Little acknowledged that many people are upset by his stay-home order that was issued March 25 and extended last week to the end of April. He took action, he said, to slow the spread of the coronavirus and it’s working. He noted that 99% of Idahoans have followed the order.
“I understand people are frustrated about when we’re going to be able to return to normal, when things are going to happen,” he said. “This plan today is that pathway I think it will alleviate a lot of that concern.”
Little condemned businesses that have reopened in violation of his order, such as Middleton Fitness Center, which reopened Monday, and Slick’s Bar in Nampa, which announced it will reopen Saturday.
“I don’t condone it in any way, shape or form,” Little said. “It’s not fair to the competitors. It’s not fair to the rest of the citizens of Idaho that are making these sacrifices. People who don’t comply with this stage or other stages are jeopardizing people’s health.”
The governor said he found it “disgusting” that a group of protesters gathered Tuesday outside the house of a Meridian police officer hours after he arrested Sara Brady after she refused orders to leave a playground closed because of the coronavirus at Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park.
Little’s plan would leave it up to the Idaho State Board of Education to determine when schools could reopen. Last week, the board extended closure of public school buildings through the end of the academic year. But it said if social-distancing orders are lifted and school districts met additional criteria set by the board, they could reopen their doors.
“I don’t see anything in our criteria that would prevent the schools from opening,” Little said.
For complete details visit Rebound.Idaho.Gov
PHASE 1: MAY 1-15
PHASE 2: MAY 16-29
Restaurant dining rooms if plans have been approved by local health districts
Public gatherings of less than 10 people
PHASE 3: MAY 30-JUNE 12
Vulnerable Idahoans can resume public interaction with social distancing
Gatherings between 10-50 people are appropriate
Discontinue 14-day self-quarantine for visitors to Idaho
Non-essential travel can resume
PHASE 4: JUNE 13-26
Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters and sports stadiums can reopen with limited physical distancing protocol
Gatherings of more than 50 people are appropriate
All employers can resume unrestricted staffing of workplaces but continue to practice social distancing
Visits to senior living facilities can resume
More detailed plans can be found here.
EastIdahoNews.com will post a complete story later today.