BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little laid out his four-step plan Thursday for how the state can reopen as the threat of coronavirus recedes.
The governor warned that the model hinges on people continuing to maintain social distance and abiding by the current stay-at-home order to avoid a second spike of illness that could push those openings back further into the summer.
Under Stage One of the plan, which is aimed at going into effect on May 1 - the day after the current stay-at-home order expires - both retail stores and places of worship would be allowed to reopen, provided they can maintain appropriate social distancing. Bars, dine-in restaurants, and gyms would remain closed, and large gatherings would still be discouraged.
Stage Two, set to run from May 16 to May 29, would see restaurants, hair and nail salons, and gyms reopen, as long as they can safely meet protocols. Restaurants would need to submit a reopening plan and have it approved by the local public health district before being allowed to serve dine-in customers.
Bars, nightclubs, and large venues like movie theaters and concert spaces would remain shut down.
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In Stage Three - projected for May 30 to June 12 - gatherings of ten to 50 people would be allowed, 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.
The mandatory 14-day quarantine for people entering Idaho would also be lifted. Likewise, non-essential travel will be allowed to places that do not have ongoing transmission.
The final stage, Stage Four, is estimated to begin June 13 and would see the reopening of bars, 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 at that point, and visits to correctional facilities and senior living centers would be allowed to resume.
More information about each stage is available here.
Little stressed that moving from one stage to the next is dependent on there being no significant increase in cases, as well as other criteria being met. Idaho residents must continue to do their part to flatten the curve if they want to see reopenings by the dates the state is projecting, he said.
"We cannot and will not progress through the stages of reopening if people do not continue personal measures to limit their exposure to coronavirus," the governor said. "That means continue to stay home as much as you can, keep a safe social distance between you and others who are not members of your household, wear protective face coverings in public, and wash your hands."
There has already been pushback to the extended stay-at-home order. Little said he could sympathize with those frustrated by the restrictions, but criticized businesses - like a gym in Middleton and a bar in Nampa - who have announced they will open their doors to the public in defiance of the social distancing rules.
Still, Little stopped short of saying he will direct law enforcement to fine those owners or charge them with a crime.
"I don't condone it in any way, shape or form - it's not fair to the competitors, it's not fair to the rest of the citizens of Idaho that are making these sacrifices," he said. "I think it's disrespectful of everyone who is complying with it, and I trust consumer opinion and peer pressure to be perhaps the best cure for this."
Little said the state is planning to increase testing for COVID-19, and also announced the formation of an economic rebound advisory committee, led by Idaho Power CEO Darrel Anderson. More than 100,000 Idaho workers have filed for unemployment in the first five weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.
"I know this is hard on everyone. I have spoken with many workers and business owners who have shared their stories of hardship, concern, and outright anger," the governor said. "I have heard from many, many people who are upset that our current circumstances prevent them from practicing their faith the way they want. Parents are frustrated, children long for their teachers and classmates. Wedding plans, travel plans, incomes and personal spending all have changed."
Idaho schools are not included in Little's stages of reopening; the governor has left all school reopening decisions to the State Board of Education, which has rolled out its own set of criteria on when in-person learning might resume.
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