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Idaho Politics

Governor Little gives OK to lift more virus restrictions

Governor Little Stage 4 presser

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Governor Little announced during a press conference Thursday that Idaho will transition into Idaho Rebounds Stage 4, the fourth and final stage of his plan to return to regular activity during the coronavirus pandemic despite a bump in infections, including among healthcare workers.

"We almost didn't make it to Stage 4 this week," Little said. "Despite our incredible progress, there are still some in Idaho who are not practicing measures to keep themselves and others safe."

Community spread is occurring in more than half of the counties in Idaho.

"Even if contracting COVID-19 is low on your personal concerns, I urge you to practice safe measures to protect others," Little said.

Little said restrictions will be lifted Saturday that will allow gatherings of more than 50 people as long as precautions are taken. Employers can resume unrestricted staffing but should protect workers with physical distancing and other measures.

Visits to senior living facilities can resume, but physical distancing and good hygiene should be practiced, he said. The state plans to release specific protocols for senior living facilities, which have accounted for most of the coronavirus deaths in Idaho.

All businesses can open, Little said, though physical distancing will be needed.

You can watch the press conference below.

WATCH NOW: GOVERNOR LITTLE IDAHO REBOUNDS STAGE 4 PRESS CONFERENCE

Little on March 25 issued a stay-at-home order for the state's 1.75 million residents. Idaho's economy began shutting down with some 130,000 unemployment claims filed over the next eight weeks.

The plan for reopening the economy through four stages at roughly two-week intervals is based on infection rates and testing. The readiness of the health care system is another factor, including available ventilators and beds in intensive care units.

Little said that all those factors are being met, though it was close on new infections and infections of healthcare workers. State epidemiologist Christine Hahn said the infections among healthcare workers appeared to be not happening on the job, but in their homes from other family members or elsewhere.

Hospital beds in intensive care units also dipped, but state officials said that was due to more surgeries being performed and not because of severe coronavirus cases where patients had trouble breathing.

If infections were to spike or other criteria weren't meant, Little said the state could be forced back into more restrictions. He said community spread has now occurred in more than of half of the state's 44 counties. Community spread means it's not clear where a person became infected.

Health officials say the state's testing ability has jumped to 10,000 people a day and could hit 20,000 if needed. Officials also said the ability to do contact tracing, a voluntary program for those contacted, has increased significantly.

Stage 4 is scheduled to end on June 26. The state has set up protocols for what will be allowed after that, though until a vaccine for the virus is found physical distancing and face coverings would likely remain.

Idaho has 3,260 confirmed cases of the virus that have caused 85 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. But it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death for some people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.

Stage Four – If no significant increase in cases and criteria remain met (June 13 – June 26***)

INDIVIDUALEMPLOYERSPECIFIC TYPE EMPLOYER
Vulnerable Idahoans can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed.Resume unrestricted staffing of worksites, but continue to practice physical distancing, personal protections and sanitation for protection of workers.Visits to senior living facilities and congregate facilities (e.g. jails and corrections) can resume. Those who interact with residents and patients must be diligent regarding hygiene and physical distancing.
Gatherings, both public and private, of more than 50 people, where appropriate physical distancing and precautionary measures are observed can occur. Find gatherings guidance here.Special accommodations for employees who are considered vulnerable should be made.Nightclubs may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy, where applicable and appropriate.
Non-essential travel continues to locations that allow it and do not have ongoing transmission (individuals should adhere to state and CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel).All open businesses continue to follow plans.Large venues (e.g. sporting venues) can operate under limited physical distancing protocols.
Non-essential travel continues to locations that allow it and do not have ongoing transmission (employers should adhere to state and CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel).

Business Protocols for Opening — Businesses opening their doors in various stages of the Idaho Rebound plan should have operational plans in place to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. For business protocols available, click here.

Every two weeks: re-evaluation against criteria to determine feasibility to move from one stage to the next
***ALL CRITERIA MUST BE MET TO MOVE STAGES AND DATES ARE ESTIMATED TARGETS

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