BOISE — Idaho will stay in Stage 4 of its reopening for another two weeks, Gov. Brad Little announced Friday.
Stage 4, the final stage in the Idaho Rebounds plan, started June 13 and allows businesses to be physically open while following certain protocols. The state recommends, but does not require, masks; some local agencies do.
Friday marked the seventh time the governor has extended Stage 4. The evaluation to continue or not is made every two weeks.
“In nearly all the statewide metrics categories we are seeing encouraging trends. However, our COVID hospitalizations statewide remain too high again to move out of Stage 4,” Little said. The governor touted the state's economic recovery thus far, and said, "A primary reason we are able to achieve this remarkable economic position is because of our personal actions to slow the spread of coronavirus in our communities."
He noted that Idaho's unemployment rate just fell to 4.2%, half the national average.
On Sept. 14, the latest day reported on the state's coronavirus dashboard, 123 patients were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. That's down from a peak 242 in early August, but up from this spring's numbers, which hovered around the 60 mark.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in the ICU was 54 on Sept. 14, close to the peak of 57 reported July 21.
To move out of Stage 4, there'd need to be a daily average of fewer than 25 COVID-19 patients in the ICU, Little said, noting that this is a new metric for the state's reopening.
There'd also need to be fewer than eight hospital admissions per day on average over the prior 14-day period for suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The numbers have been well above that level, on some days reaching nearly three times that figure.
Little warned that colder temperatures will cause more "transmissible moments" for Idahoans, and asked them to "please not let your guard down."
"Wear a face mask. Keep 6 feet from others. Wash your hands and clean surfaces regularly. Stay home if you’re sick, and get a flu shot," he said.
Ada County still has some Stage 3 restrictions under a Central District Health order. In Ada County masks are required in public and social gatherings are limited to 10.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Idaho had nearly 36,500 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 434 deaths.
Little invited representatives of three Idaho businesses to join him at Friday's press conference and share their businesses’ experience with the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s response. All three said the state’s programs to help businesses through the pandemic, from a return-to-work bonus for workers, to aid in acquiring personal protective equipment, were of immense help.
“We saw a record number of guests this summer at Tamarack,” said Scott Turlington of Tamarack Resort. “Our guests felt comfortable, they felt safe.”
He said the resort voluntarily ceased operations on March 17, and “the immediate future looked very uncertain.”
The $1,500 per person return-to-work bonus that Idaho offered helped the resort rehire the 52 employees it needed to serve the swelling crowds of customers this summer, he said.
Little said nearly 32,000 Idahoans got the bonuses.
Stephanie Camarillo, owner of a local Molly Maid franchise, said the state was key in helping her get the PPE her employees needed to keep working.
Earl Gilmartin of Commercial Creamery in Jerome said he’s proud his family business is still going strong.
“People are making sacrifices, whether they’re wearing face coverings, whatever it is that they’re doing,” Little said, “they need to know that part of the return on that is what it’s doing for economic prosperity in Idaho, and we wanted to highlight that.”