Little addresses questions, reservations about reopening

As the state continues to move through the stages of a staggered reopening, Idahoans are shaking off coronavirus quarantine restrictions and considering their plans for the summer and beyond.

And if Tuesday’s weekly AARP Idaho town hall teleconference with Gov. Brad Little was any indication, they’re hungry for guidance.

Little fielded questions about events and emergency precautions, travel and school reopening plans from Idahoans who are curious — and concerned — about a return to social gatherings.

A caller from Grangeville asked Little if the state would issue guidance on Fourth of July ceremonies.

Grangeville’s annual Border Days celebration draws thousands of people for a rodeo, an egg toss, a parade and local reunions. That event would fall about a week after Little hopes to adopt Idaho’s fourth and final stage of economic and social reopening. That target date is June 26.

The state plans to issue more guidance on large gatherings moving forward, said Dave Jeppesen, director of Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare.

On Tuesday, Little recommended Idahoans continue to prioritize social and physical distancing at events. It’s easier to maintain distancing at outdoor events, he said. Strategies such as doubling the length of parade routes could spread out attendees, and Little urged “good judgement” at events where people like to give hugs, such as class reunions.

“Everything we do is we’re trying to maintain that social distancing,” Little said.

Jeppesen said event organizers should reach out to public health districts for guidance on how to host events while continuing to mitigate risk.

Looking forward to the fall, another Idahoan asked whether the state plans to test all K-12 students before their return to school.

In short: No.

“It would be impractical at best,” Little said.

While some testing might take place in areas with community spread, Little said it would be a huge lift to test all school children in a short amount of time. His office is talking with the State Board of Education about what back-to-school plans might be.

“All the practices we talk about, in terms of social distancing, good hygiene, stay at home if you’re sick: Those are the protocols all the school districts will be following,” he said. “I don’t know of any state where they’re trying to test all the students.”

Sami Edge

About Sami Edge

Reporter Sami Edge, a University of Oregon graduate, joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association fellow reporting on Latino student outcomes in Idaho. She also is a 2019 American Press Institute fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].

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