Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced the state would formally enter the first of four stages of reopening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A strong economic comeback starts with one thing: consumer and employee confidence,” Little said. “They want to know everything is being done so they won’t contract coronavirus when they leave their homes. Until we have a vaccine, safety should be priority one.”
Little said 90% of businesses may open. Those that remain closed include bars, the dine-in portion of restaurants, indoor gyms, hair salons and large venues like movie theater and sports venues.
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“We have laid out protocols to ensure businesses have physical distancing, sanitization and other protocols in stage one,” Little said.
Little said places of worships, daycares and youth camps can also reopen if they adhere to State of Idaho and CDC protocols.
The state protocols are now outlined online, including specific information for daycares, youth activities and churches.
“Gathering of any size, both public and private should be avoided,” he said.
State to continue contract tracing
Little hopes to start contact-tracing efforts for patients who come down with the coronavirus, though he didn’t provide details. Contact tracing helps find people who may have had contact with a COVID-positive case. Those people would then be asked to self-isolate so they don’t further spread the disease.
“There are various stages of contact tracing,” Little said. “We are putting more resources into the health districts. I’m confident that we have exceeded our hurdles for stage one.”
“It’s very labor-intensive work,” Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said. “We’ve been keeping up with the capacity we have in the system.”
Date targets could change
The State of Idaho set forth a series of date targets to move through the stages. In Boise, the city said it wouldn’t set dates. Little told BoiseDev that the state could, in fact, miss the targets if conditions on the ground change – but he hopes they will be met.
Little said the giving the date guidance helps businesses prepare by hiring employees and ramping up to reopen. He also said the state could move backward in the stages if coronavirus conditions warrant, but he hopes that isn’t the case.
Little also announced a new grant program for businesses impacted by the COVID-related shutdowns.
The governor said that the current outbreak started in Idaho after events in the high-travel Ketchum area.
“We know that the big run we had in Idaho started before there was public awareness in the Ketchum area,” he said. “There were some big events without social distancing and proper hygiene. Big events are where you have the largest risk.”
BoiseDev asked about the prospect of fall events going on as planned.
“I think outdoor events will happen because spacing is not going to be as critical – particularly if we are doing contract tracing and testing,” he told us. “I think for those big events outdoors, science will say are going to be better off than events that happen inside where we can’t do proper spacing.”