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Idaho to loosen COVID-19 restrictions as cases trend downward

"This is not a signal to let up on our collective good efforts. We must stay vigilant," Gov. Brad Little said.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little moved to relax COVID-19 restrictions across the state in response to a downward trend of new infections and hospitalizations, even as he warned the fight against the virus was not over. 

Idaho will move out of Stage 2 of the coronavirus reopening plan and into Stage 3, the governor announced in an address Tuesday morning. 

Under the new stage, gathering size caps will rise from 10 people to 50 people. Religious and political expression, education, and healthcare activities are exempt from the group size limits, Little said, as are sporting events as long as organizers follow the Idaho State Board of Education COVID-19 safety guidelines.

"This is not a signal to let up on our collective good efforts. We must stay vigilant," Little said.

State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn echoed the governor's call for caution, even as she said she was encouraged by the "dramatic drop" in cases. 

"Today, we are seeing the number of people that need admission to the hospital dropping," she said. "You can see compared to late December, how we continue to see people admitted - we're not out of the woods - but we have seen quite a decline since then."

Hahn warned, however, that the state's vaccination rollout is still in early stages. The governor's announcement came one day after the state expanded vaccine eligibility to those age 65 or older. Vaccine slots for seniors filled up quickly Monday morning, with hospitals in the Treasure Valley reporting that their supply of vaccine doses were all earmarked by 9 a.m. 

She also warned that most of Idaho's neighboring states have detected a COVID-19 variant originally found in the United Kingdom, adding that the variant was likely already present in the Gem State as well.

"This is not the time to throw the masks away and go back to normal," Hahn said. "We're not there yet." 

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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