BOISE - As progress continues in the fight against novel coronavirus COVID-19, Gov. Brad Little announced in a press conference on Thursday that the state met the criteria to enter the third stage of his Stay Healthy order as of Saturday. The order surrounds safely reopening amidst the pandemic.
Gov. Little added that movie theaters are now allowed to reopen, following conversations with operators, in stage 3. He added this move gives these operators time to call in staff and develop their game plan for reopening.
When asked why theaters were allowed, Little said, “I would much rather start something earlier than have to delay” those to a later time.
Gov. Little recommended that those who can work from home should continue to do so
He touted Idaho as being the first to come up with a staged reopening plan, adding that the vast majority of Idahoans maintaining social distancing and taking precautions made implementing the plan possible.
With no therapeutics or vaccines yet available, Little urged caution as the state reopens. He pointed out that one in three people who become infected with COVID-19 can experience serious symptoms.
As previously reported, the state of Idaho has used a portion of the $1.25 billion it received through the CARES Act to create grants for businesses negatively affected by COVID-19.
He reminded the public, “Health and the economy are not mutually exclusive; they are interconnected.”
While Idaho did experience a spike of 55 positive cases on May 22, Idaho epidemiologist Christine Hahn reminded the public that an increase in testing accounted for that spike and that the state continues to trend downward.
“We will pick up some more cases, so we look at the number of cases but we also need to look at the bigger picture,” said Hahn.
When asked what would happen if the trend of infections takes a turn back for the worse, Little said he would encourage a more regional approach to curtailing reopening.
When asked about outdoor performance venues, Little said it depends on the number of people involved.
The governor clarified that the difference between bars and nightclubs as far as stage 3 is concerned is transmissibility; He said that the bars could reopen if dance floors are left closed. Little went so far as to joke about not being able to go to a “mosh pit” as he clarified this rule. As far as the difference between restaurants and bars, he said the main difference is whether they get a periodic food inspection.
According to an article from Northwell Health, the cost for an individual test can vary between $50 and $200. To support the state’s need for testing, Little reminded the public that pharmacies throughout Idaho are contributing to ramping up testing and pointed out that insurance carriers and businesses are helping the state pay for those tests.
“It’s all hands on deck,” he said.
As far as reopening schools, Little said the biggest concern is how to accommodate older and immunocompromised teachers as schools are reopened.
Among Idaho’s seven public health districts, Little said the number one concern is integrity of data.
“We’ll continue to refine it as we go forward,” he said, emphasizing that nothing should be hidden from the public.
As far as whether shoppers should continue to wear masks while shopping, Little answered very plainly that they should.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” he said.