BOISE, Idaho — Gov. Brad Little is giving the go-ahead to begin Stage Two of reopening Idaho as scheduled on Saturday, May 16. This as Idaho looks to resume regular activities and recover from economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor announced his decision during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
He says efforts to mitigate the coronavirus from spreading in Idaho are working.
"If we continue to be diligent about washing our hands, limiting exposure to others, and wearing face masks, we control the outcome, we control our ability to make consumers and employees confident about getting back to work and visiting places of business," Little said.
The governor said that 95% of all businesses in the state will be able to open their doors starting this Saturday.
Starting Saturday, restrictions will be lifted on restaurant indoor dining, hair salons, and indoor gyms and recreation facilities. But social distancing requirements remain, meaning restaurants have to limit seating capacity to 50%.
Little announced one big change to his four-staged approach - bars can now reopen on May 30, in Stage 3, instead of have to wait until June 13, the start of Stage 4.
"I wanted to give everybody as much certainty as we possibly can. And that's a good reason, and to be real accurate about it, it's a little hard to determine the difference be a restaurant and a bar," Little said.
Stage One, which took effect on May 1, included reopening retail stores, places of worship, provided they could maintain appropriate social distancing.
Stage Two, set to run from May 16 to May 29, includes businesses such as dine-in restaurants, hair and nail salons, and gyms and recreation facilities. Restaurants were to submit a reopening plan and have it approved by the local public health district before being allowed to serve dine-in customers.
During Thursday's press conference, state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn answered a question about the requirements for restaurants reopening.
"The restaurants can go ahead and open because the (health) districts have obviously thousands of these applications now, so the idea is the restaurants can reopen while the public health districts are reviewing them," Hahn said.
Idaho COVID-19 latest: Latest news and daily updates | Map of confirmed Idaho cases | Timelines tracking case trends | Gov. Little’s plan to reopen Idaho in stages | COVID-19 resources | Testing sites | Employers hiring | Help nonprofits | Full COVID-19 coverage
Again, business owners are urged to follow safety protocols established by the state to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Venues like movie theaters, sporting events and concert spaces would remain closed.
Little also announced that Idaho small businesses have a new online resource to access masks, gloves, and sanitizer. They can obtain a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees and patrons at supplies.idaho.gov.
"Health and the economy are not mutually exclusive – they are interconnected," Little said. "It's been a challenge for small businesses to acquire PPE in quantities appropriate for their size. We don't want the lack of access to PPE to inhibit small businesses from opening, and this new resource is an interim bridge to help them get back to work safely and build consumer confidence while the supply chain normalizes."
Earlier this week, Idaho small businesses started applying for the Idaho Rebound cash grants. $300 million is available in direct cash support – more than any other state.
At the conclusion of the press conference, the governor said, "go get your haircut at 12:01 Saturday."
Idaho Governor Brad Little discusses Stage Two of Idaho Rebounds.
As of Thursday, Idaho has 2,128 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 69 deaths and 1,557 recovered. See our daily updates and the newest numbers.
Stage Three, projected for May 30 to June 12, would permit gatherings of 10 to 50 people as long as precautionary measures are observed. Vulnerable Idahoans can resume public interactions, but should continue to practice physical distancing, avoiding social situations where that is not possible.
Stage Four is estimated to begin June 13 and would see the reopening of theaters and other venues, as well as gatherings of more than 50 people, as long as precautions are in place. Work-from-home recommendations would also be lifted and visits to correctional facilities and senior living centers would be allowed to resume.
More information about each stage is available here.
Facts not fear: More on coronavirus
See our latest updates in our YouTube playlist:
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage and the latest COVID-19 case numbers, visit our coronavirus section here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus
- Interactive map and timeline tracking Idaho COVID-19 cases
- What's an 'essential' business under the Idaho stay-home order? Gov. Little answers your questions
- Coronavirus resources: Testing sites, at-risk grocery hours in the Treasure Valley
- List of employers hiring during the coronavirus pandemic
- How to help southern Idaho nonprofits or get help during the coronavirus pandemic