Idaho to advance to stage three of reopening plan

State epidemiologist Christine Hahn, Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen and Gov. Brad Little prepare for Thursday’s Statehouse news conference. Photo by Clark Corbin/Idaho Education News.

Idaho will ease more restrictions and allow more businesses to open this weekend with Gov. Brad Little giving the green light to advancing to the third stage of reopening.

Speaking during a Thursday afternoon Statehouse news conference, Little said almost all businesses will be able to open Saturday under stage three of the two-month, four-stage Idaho Rebounds plan.

“Due to the sacrifices Idahoans have made in the past two months and the care they have shown for their neighbors, I am hopeful that we passed the worst of COVID-19 in our state,” Little said.

In a nutshell, the move to stage three means gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed and bars and movie theaters will be able to open if they meet state protocols. Nightclubs, sporting events and large venues, such as concert halls, will still remain closed.

Advancing to stage three doesn’t really affect school closures and higher education.

But Little has said that opening public schools in the fall is a top priority for him. During Thursday’s news conference, Little said the increased testing strategy his coronavirus task force recommended last week is a big part of his plan to reopen schools.

“I would love, before we go back to school, to have a saliva test, at a minimum, for every school teacher,” Little said.

Although Little is easing restrictions on travel and allowing larger group meetings, he emphasized there is still no vaccine, treatment or herd immunity to the contagious coronavirus.

“We can be proud of all that (we have done so far), but our battle with COVID-19 is far from over,” Little said.

In order for reopening to be safe and effective, Little asked all Idahoans to wear masks in public places and when they shop. He also urged residents to continue to maintain physical distance of six feet and for people who are sick to stay home.

Even with reopening, Little said the virus could still cause serious complications for the one third of Idahoans who are considered at-risk if they contract the virus.

Bars and movie theaters were originally included in stage four plans, but Little moved both up to stage three.

“As I stated about the movie theaters, I would much rather accelerate things and still give people prior notification, than I would slow things down,” Little said.

Through Wednesday afternoon, the state was reporting 2,731 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 82 deaths. Another update is expected at about 5 p.m. Thursday.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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