Little prepares to reopen Idaho’s economy

Gov. Brad Little is preparing to move to the first stage of reopening Idaho’s economy as his statewide stay-home order comes up for review Thursday.

Little said it appears the state will meet the criteria to begin reopening. (Many of these criteria are available online.)

“I think we will meet the criteria for Stage One unless something significant happens going forward,” Little said Tuesday, during his seventh weekly telephone town hall meeting with AARP Idaho members.

Little’s first stage of reopening Idaho following the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t apply to schools. Places of worship, day cares and some organized youth activities and camps could reopen on May 1. Little and health officials will review the data every two weeks. If there is no significant increase in cases, the reopening will continue in four stages through late June.

The State Board of Education approved criteria local school officials would need to meet on a case-by-case basis if they hope to reopen this academic year. Otherwise, physical school buildings will remain closed and remote learning will continue through the end of the year. If Little lifts the statewide stay-home order Thursday, school officials in areas that do not have community spread of the virus could begin working on reopening protocols with local public health officials.

Little expressed sadness about the impact the closures are having on students and families.

“Whether we like it or not, we’re having to make a lot of decisions that affect a lot of people’s lives in Idaho, their safety, their livelihood, Little said. “It breaks my heart that we’re about to get into May, which is commencement season, and proms are canceled and commencements and graduations are canceled.

“But as we move along I’d like to express to all the people of Idaho how thankful I am for what’s taken place (to slow the spread of the virus).”

Idaho has been under a statewide stay-home order since March 25. In the last week, Little has turned his attention to economy and business. At the same time, he’s experiencing some restlessness and outright pushback from legislative leaders, and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.

As of this week, more than 100,000 Idahoans are out of work, Little said.

During Tuesday’s phone call, Little heard some more pushback. A majority of callers during the one-hour event were respectful and thankful, but a woman from Kooskia said the stay-home order is crushing businesses, along with the lives of their owners.

“I want to know, governor, what gives you the right to continue to mandate that Idahoans be barred from providing for their families by denying them access to the operation of their businesses, which are their property and are protected by the Fifth Amendment?” she asked, insisting on specifics.

Little said the 10th Amendment, the Idaho Constitution and Title 46 of Idaho Code give him executive powers.

“The no-action alternative had the 50 governors … had we not done something, the turmoil to the economy would have been much, much worse,” Little said. “The amount of people who died, the amount of people that were sick, the economic turmoil would have, by a magnitude of many over what we have today, (been worse).”

Dave Jeppesen, director of Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare speaks at a news conference on March 25, when Gov. Brad Little announced a statewide stay-at-home order due to coronavirus community spread. Sami Edge/Idaho EdNews

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said that even as the reopening begins in stages, Idahoans should still maintain social distancing, wear a face covering in public and be vigorous about washing their hands.

“They really matter and they are the things that all of us are doing that’s going to help our friends and neighbors open up and keep their businesses open,” Jeppesen said.

Since the first Idaho COVID-19 case was confirmed March 13, state health officials have identified 1,952 confirmed and probable cases across the state’s of 5 p.m. Tuesday. There are confirmed cases in 33 of Idaho’s 44 counties.

 

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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