Idaho will move into Stage 2 of reopening its economy in the wake of the coronavirus on Saturday, Gov. Brad Little announced Thursday.
That means as of Saturday, dine-in restaurants, hair and nail salons, and indoor gyms will be able to reopen, as long as they meet social distancing and sanitation standards to protect employees and customers. The governor also made a surprise announcement that he’s decided to move bars up from Stage 4 of his reopening plan to Stage 3, meaning they could possibly reopen as early as May 30.
Asked if that decision was based on science or political pressure, Little said, “We’ve done everything based on science.” But pressed by reporters for the metrics he relied on for that move, he said, “I would rather loosen it up than tighten it up. I wanted to give everybody as much certainty as we possibly can. To be real accurate about it, it’s a little hard to determine the difference between a restaurant and a bar.”
Little also made another modification to his four-stage “Idaho Rebounds” reopening plan: He decided to modify the requirement for people arriving in Idaho from out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. Once Stage 2 starts, Idaho instead will require that only for people arriving from places where there’s community spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Folks looking to come to Idaho from places with no community spread … are now able to freely enter Idaho,” he said, referring to the situation as of Saturday. “This step will help Idaho’s vital tourism industry while also keeping Idahoans safe.”
He also called on vulnerable individuals to continue to self-isolate, and all Idahoans to continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, wash hands and take other precautions. In Stage 2, gatherings of less than 10 people will be allowed, where social distancing can be maintained. Employers are asked to continue to encourage telework, “wherever possible and feasible with business operations,” according to the “Idaho Rebounds” plan, and to return employees to work in phases.
As of Saturday, more than 95% of the businesses in the state will be allowed to open their doors, Little said.
Little also announced that small businesses can now apply for a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment — such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer — from the state, to ensure they are able to reopen successfully and safely.
Gov. Little also amended guidance on travel. Beginning with phase two, he now says if someone enters the state from an area with very few cases or no community spread, they don’t have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“This step will help Idaho’s vital tourism industry as well as keeping Idahoans safe,” he said.
He also said groups of up to ten can now gather – but the number was more of a guideline. He reiterated his answer for several other items that Idahoans should practice common sense. That includes social distancing.
Throughout the press conference, Little emphasized the need for Idahoans to follow best practices — handwashing, wearing cloth face coverings in public, and limiting contact with others.
“Health and economy are not mutually exclusive,” Little said. “They are interconnected.”
“We’ve been diligent protecting our neighbors and ourselves, and we need to continue to do that so that we can continue moving forward,” the governor said.
Idaho Press reporters Tommy Simmons and Ashley Miller and BoiseDev’s Don Day contributed