Citing a decrease in cases and less stress on hospitals, Gov. Brad Little moved Idaho into the next stage of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan Tuesday.
With moving Idaho out of Stage 2 and into Stage 3, Little eased the limit on public and private gatherings from 10 to 50 people. There is not a limit on educational activities, or political or religious expressions, Little said.
The move does not change local school reopening plans, which are developed at the local level.
Little stressed the 50-person limit does not apply to school sports as long as organizers comply with the State Board of Education’s athletics attendance plan.
On Jan. 22, the State Board enacted Little’s directive to allow more people to attend school sports. The new athletic attendance plan allows schools to fill gyms to 40 percent of capacity or for student-athletes to invite four spectators, whichever number is larger.
Little and state epidemiologist Christine Hahn praised Idahoans for stepping up to limit the spread of the coronavirus, such as wearing masks and maintain distance from other people.
Those actions, they said, ease stress on hospitals and allow the state to open up a bit more.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank you for protecting your loved ones and neighbors from COVID-19,” Little said.
“Collectively, once again, we came together to do the right thing. The virus activity and its impacts have been trending downward in Idaho throughout the months of December and January.”
But they stressed Idaho is only in the initial stages of its vaccination rollout and people should remain vigilant in following safety protocols to continue to fight off the virus. They also stressed Idahoans should behave as if the more contagious strain of COVID-19 is in Idaho.
“This is not the time to throw the masks away and go back to normal,” Hahn said. “We’re not there yet.”
Over the past 11 months when Little moved the state up or down the tiers of the pandemic re-opening plan he held a press conference and took questions. Little took no questions Tuesday, so it was unclear whether the move to Stage 3 was effective immediately or kicks in at midnight. It also was not immediately clear what specific criteria Little consulted when making the move and how the exemption process works for organizers seeking to stage larger events such as weddings.
During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials answered questions about the equity and transparency of the vaccine distribution process.
Beginning next week the state officials will publish additional data about the doses shipped to and the inventory on hand for each vaccine provider. Little called for additional transparency in the vaccine distribution process last week.