BOISE, Idaho — Ada County will be rolled back to Stage 3 of the reopening plan and all bars will be ordered to close after a spike in coronavirus cases.
The return to higher restrictions was announced Monday afternoon by Central District Health.
Bars must close down by 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to the health district. The rest of the state will continue to remain in Stage 4.
Health officials in the district say there have been "daily significant increases" in Ada County over the past week, bringing the total number of cases in Ada County to 1,256.
Idaho moved into Stage Four of the reopening plan June 12, allowing nearly every type of business and venue to reopen with some restrictions and distancing requirements. Since then, some businesses have reopened and elected to shut back down out of concerns about spreading the virus.
It's unclear how long Ada County will have to remain in Stage 3. Although Central District Health also covers Boise, Elmore, and Valley counties, the restrictions apply only to Ada County right now.
However, District Director Russ Duke said health officials "are prepared to move restrictions into other counties if it becomes necessary."
Restaurants in Ada County will be allowed to remain open for dine-in service. Those restaurants that contain bars will have to close the bar-top area, but can still serve drinks to patrons via waitstaff. Movie theaters will also be allowed to stay open, provided that they follow social distancing and face-covering guidelines.
Duke said that he could sympathize with bar owners and staff forced to close back down, but that the decision was made in the interest of public health. He urged them to take advantage of resources from the governor's office and the Idaho Department of Labor.
"I completely understand how difficult this is economically, both for the business owners as well as their employees," he said.
But ultimately, he said, "we had no choice."
Gatherings of more than 50 people will also be prohibited in Ada County. Visitors to longterm care facilities and correctional facilities will be suspended again as well.
Health officials say that Ada County saw 275 new infections last week, a majority of which were in people in the 18-29 age range. Duke warned that even young people who are asymptomatic or do not feel sick can rapidly transmit the virus to their family members and others they spend time with.
"This disease spreads. It doesn't discriminate on a person's age or sex," he said. "It is highly infectious."
That is especially true in places like bars and nightclubs, where people congregate together inside in groups.
"They are very high risk," Duke said. "My hope is that through these orders we can get the disease back in check."
Ada County Sheriff Steve Bartlett said that he is coordinating with police chiefs around the county to enforce the order.
"This is not a decision that gets made lightly and one that we're going to continue to work through, and hopefully we can get those numbers kicked back down," the sheriff said. "I'm very hopeful we'll be able to gain compliance through education."
If cases continue to rise, more restrictions will be put into place, Duke said. Central District Health will continue to monitor case counts and impact on local hospitals in making that decision.
The district has set up a call center related to the new restrictions. Those with questions can call 208-321-2222. To read Central District Health's full order, click here.
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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