Gov. Brad Little said he hopes to have most of Idaho’s economy open and running by late June as part of a metered reopening plan he announced Thursday morning.
Little unveiled the four stages of reopening in response to the coronavirus pandemic during a remote press conference. He also introduced a new state website called Idaho Rebounds that outlines the process.
“Our efforts have worked so well, in fact, we have entered a new chapter, a very welcome chapter,” he said. “A staged reopening of Idaho’s economy is under way.”
Little’s newest guidelines do not address school closures or change the local reopening requirements the State Board of Education approved last week. Idaho’s school buildings are closed through the end of the academic year, but local school officials may work with local public health officials and attempt to meet reopening criteria on a case-by-case basis.
Speaking generally, Little said he sees nothing in these new guidelines that would prevent schools from reopening in the fall.
“Part of the reason we are doing all this is it’s my sincere intent this fall, for sure, we get back to school,” Little said.
As things stand, the statewide stay-home order remains in place until April 30 unless it is extended or modified.
The gradual economic reopening would begin May 1 if criteria for lifting the stay-home order are met. Under that first stage, places of worship may reopen, so long as they meet social-distancing and sanitation requirements.
All the criteria will be revaluated every two weeks and the dates and timelines are all estimates.
Under the governor’s plan, bars, restaurants and large venues would be last to reopen and only do so with diminished occupancy and distancing requirements in place if all the criteria for moving to the fourth stage of reopening are met.
According to Little’s timeline, Idaho could reach the final and fourth stage by June 13-26. Even at the fourth stage, Little’s plan assumes physical distancing requirements remain in place.
“Somewhat normal is a good description,” Little said. “We are not going to be back to normal until we have a vaccine, I have to be straight with the people of Idaho.”
But if the coronavirus spreads, Little will delay the reopening process or reintroduce restrictions.
“We cannot and will not progress through the stages of reopening if people do not continue personal measures to limit their exposure to coronavirus,” Little said.
Little’s staff said he will make an announcement next week about whether the criteria for lifting the statewide stay-home order has been met.