Gov. Brad Little press conference 5-14-20

Gov. Brad Little, center, announces on Thursday, May 14, that Idaho will enter Stage 2 of his four-stage plan to reopen businesses in the wake of the coronavirus on Friday. At left is Dr. Christine Hahn, Idaho state epidemiologist; at right, sign language interpreter Steven Stubbs.

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In a virtual news conference held in the governor's office, Idaho Gov. Brad Little just announced that the state will move into Stage 2 of his "Idaho Rebounds" reopening plan on Saturday; he said we've met the necessary metrics for declining trends in COVID-19 cases; hospital usage and emergency room visits; and protection for health care workers. That means as of Saturday, dine-in restaurants, hair and nail salons, and indoor gyms will be able to reopen, as long as they meet social distancing and sanitation standards to protect employees and customers. The governor also made a surprise announcement that he's decided to move bars up from Stage 4 of his reopening plan to Stage 3, meaning they could possibly reopen as early as May 30.

Asked if that decision was based on science or political pressure, Little said, "We’ve done everything based on science." But pressed by reporters for the metrics he relied on in that decision, he said, "I would rather loosen it up than tighten it up. I wanted to give everybody as much certainty as we possibly can. To be real accurate about it, it’s a little hard to determine the difference between a restaurant and a bar."

Little also made another modification: He decided to modify the requirement for people arriving in Idaho from out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival once Stage 2 starts, instead requiring that only for people arriving from places where there's community spread of the novel coronavirus. "Folks looking to come to Idaho from places with no community spread … are now able to freely enter Idaho," he said, at least as of Saturday. "This step will help Idaho’s vital tourism industry while also keeping Idahoans safe."

He also called on vulnerable individuals to continue to self-isolate, and all Idahoans to continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, wash hands and take other precautions. In Stage 2, gatherings of less than 10 people will be allowed, where social distancing can be maintained. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com, or pick up Friday's edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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