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Hard hit Blaine County prepares for phase one, hopes to ‘open responsibly’

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COVID-19 Idaho

By Natasha Williams, Idaho News 6

April 30 is the last day of the governor’s stay at home order, and cities across the state are preparing to enter phase one of Idaho’s Rebound, the four-phase plan to reopen the state.

For Blaine County, which has been on of Idaho’s hot spots for COVID-19 cases, they’re watching the rest of the state and understand eyes are on them too.

“As a hotspot, as an area that got more than its fair share of positive test cases of COVID, people are watching us too and we’re trying to show how we can open responsibly,” said City of Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw.

Phase one of the governor’s rebound plan allows churches, day cares, parks, and other activities to reopen as long as people follow strict social distancing guidelines–something Bradshaw says will continue in Ketchum through each phase of the plan.

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“Maintaining our physical distance, that will be important, and that will be the big difference that we see going forward in our actions not only on May 1 but also continuing on probably through the summer,” Bradshaw said.

[April 3: Data shows Blaine Co. area has nation’s highest COVID-19 case rate per capita]

Each stage of the plan has a set of specific criteria to follow, which will be reevaluated bi-weekly. Bradshaw says educating the public has been essential to keeping citizens safe as Ketchum prepares to enter phase one.

“What I’ve done is try to lay out things that people can do to try and encourage the opening of our businesses and of our economy, but be respectful of the virus and respectful of all of those around,” Bradshaw said.

Phase one doesn’t allow businesses like dine-in restaurants and hair salons to reopen–those businesses will be allowed to open in phase two as long as they follow the proper prevention guidelines.

“A lot of the businesses in Ketchum, and probably I suspect throughout Idaho have put a lot of thought into it because they know that they want to make it feel safe for their clients and customers,” Bradshaw said.

Concern about testing

Stages of the plan can be extended or reversed if criteria is not me, or if trends are moving in the wrong direction, but Blaine County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg says he has some concerns about testing.

“My concern is we may not have sufficient resources required under the plan,” Greenberg said. “What is the new testing criteria, and will we have a sufficient number of test kits to meet that criteria? If the governor’s task force on testing doesn’t issue guidance before May 1, it would seem late given the proposed phase transition.”

He says while he has his concerns, he has faith in the plan to reopen Idaho

“I think Governor Little has laid out a comprehensive and thoughtful plan, that if executed properly and with the appropriate resources could be successful,” Greenberg said.

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