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News >  Idaho

Idaho enters final phase of reopening plan, despite rising COVID-19 cases

June 13, 2020 Updated Sat., June 13, 2020 at 7:32 p.m.

By Ellen Dennis For The Spokesman-Review

Almost three months after being placed on lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions, seniors at Hayden’s Wellspring Meadows Assisted Living Center were legally allowed to see visiting family members for the first time Saturday.

The lifting on restrictions at Wellspring Meadows came as the last of the coronavirus-caused restrictions on businesses and functions in Idaho – including assisted living center and jail visits, nightclubs and large venues – were lifted as part of the fourth and final stage of Gov. Brad Little’s “Idaho Rebounds” plan.

While some assisted living centers are holding off on permitting visitations for safety concerns, Wellspring Meadows’ owner Kurt Neely believes his center has implemented a safe system.

“It’s been tough since the lockdown – it’s been really hard on the residents,” Neely said. “Everybody was feeling like they had cabin fever, so they’re very happy to see their families today.”

Little announced at the beginning of May his plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy after its coronavirus-caused closure.

Despite rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the state, Little said in a news conference Thursday he would move forward with pushing Idaho into Stage 4 of that plan, “under strict protocols to protect residents and workers.”

“We almost did not make it to Stage 4 this week. Despite our incredible progress, there are still some in Idaho who are not practicing measures to keep themselves and others safe,” Little said in the conference. “Community spread is occurring in more than half of the counties in our state.”

{div} Idaho reported 51 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, putting the state 3,302 cases. The state has reported 87 deaths caused by COVID-19. {/div}

Visitors to Wellspring Meadows are required to schedule their visits ahead of time and fill out a form detailing recent travel and noteworthy illness symptoms. Upon arrival, their temperatures are taken and they are required to wear a mask and wash their hands.

Neely said visitors are being escorted to the individual room of their loved one instead of being allowed to congregate in the center’s public areas.

“This can be devastating to the population we serve, so we’re just being super careful here,” he said.

Idaho night clubs are allowed to reopen “with diminished standing room occupancy,” and sports stadiums and concert venues are permitted to reopen at full capacity under “limited physical distancing protocols,” Little said in his conference.

Iron Horse, a bar in downtown Coeur d’Alene, was prepared to host live music Saturday night for the first time since Idaho’s stay-home order.

Skate Plaza, a roller-skating rink in Coeur d’Alene, opened its doors with limited capacity to the public in mid-May during Stage 2 of the rebound plan, but has reopened to full capacity

“Right now, we’re recommending that people practice social distancing. We’ve closed half our seating down to help maintain that,” rink manager Daniel Nale said. “But other than that, honestly, we’re doing the practices that we were doing before – cleaning and sanitizing, which is something we’ve always done.”

Stage 4 of Little’s plan is scheduled to last until June 26, at which point “Idaho Rebounds” is scheduled to be complete if a set of criteria outlined on the plan’s website is met.

Those criteria include a downward trend in, or low numbers of, patients reporting COVID-19-like illness at emergency departments over the most recent 14-day period.

The governor’s scheduled stages of reopening are contingent on this data, which will be reviewed by the Idaho Division of Public Health and the governor’s Coronavirus Working Group.

If reported case trends begin to move in the wrong direction or if there is evidence that one of the four stages has contributed to an increase in reported case rates, stages may have to be extended or reversed.

{div} No specific post-Stage 4 legislative COVID-19-related regulations are identifiable on the “Rebound Idaho” website, which vaguely states “some level of community interventions” must be maintained until an effective vaccine or treatment for the virus is established. {/div}

“All Idahoans have a responsibility to protect themselves and others. Each stage, while allowing for additional businesses and practices to open and loosen, is grounded in these basic practices for individuals and businesses,” the site states before outlining a list of suggested safety measures for businesses and residents to implement, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. {/div}

{div} {/div}

{div} Little announced a new statewide initiative earlier in the week, called ONE Idaho, that asks businesses in the state to take a pledge to reopen responsibly in “the new normal.” The initiative also calls on the state’s residents to “pledge to help keep Idaho’s economy open and protect lives.” {/div}

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