BOISE - Idaho is trying something new.
With the coronavirus pandemic rapidly worsening in Idaho, Gov. Brad Little on Monday announced that the state will go backward and re-enter Stage 3 of its Idaho Rebounds plan, with a few modifications. The main repercussion of this move is that the limit on indoor gatherings reverts to 50 people or less, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25% capacity.
“Last week, things changed for the worst,” Little said. “Idaho is at a critical juncture. This is unacceptable and we must do better. “
In-person church services may continue, travel is not restricted and businesses may remain open, the governor said, and school decisions still will be made at the local level.
Little announced the move during a news conference at the Idaho Statehouse, saying the state’s health care systems face an alarming demand.
“Hospitals throughout the state are quickly filling up or are already full with COVID-19 patients and other patients, and way too many health care workers are out sick with COVID-19,” Little said.
In Stage 3, larger venues can’t really be open for big events, so the move could affect some activities outside of Ada County, which has been in Stage 3 for a while. Bars may remain open as long as they meet safety and gathering protocols, including table seating only.
Little has repeatedly emphasized that Idahoans should practice personal responsibility during the pandemic. He has resisted implementing far-reaching orders such as a statewide mask mandate, instead leaving those decisions to local authorities, including public health districts.
However, that approach has not yielded results. Coronavirus cases in Idaho have increased dramatically in the past month, as the state’s seven-day moving average was nearly 890 new daily cases as of Sunday. That seven-day moving average was 481.3 on Oct. 1.
“I sincerely hope that some people have finally passed the point of thinking the pandemic is not real or not a big deal,” Little said.
This story is reprinted under a collaboration arrangement between the Idaho Statesman and the Malheur Enterprise to better serve readers of both newspapers.