Idaho green-lights large gatherings with move to Stage 4 of COVID-19 reopening plan

·2 min read

Idaho is going to give Stage 4 of its COVID-19 guidelines another shot.

The state returned to Stage 4 on Tuesday — with no suggested limits on gathering sizes, said Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Stage 3 recommended that gatherings be limited to 50 or fewer people, but didn’t mandate that limit.

Stage 4 says gatherings “should adhere to physical distancing and sanitation guidelines.”

“Gatherings of any size can (now) be held,” Jeppesen said.

In Boise, however, a public health order still prohibits gatherings of 50 or more people without a signed safety plan from Central District Health.

Idaho took its first crack at Stage 4 on June 13, 2020 — just 44 days into Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Rebounds reopening plan. However, the state failed to meet the criteria to advance for nine consecutive two-week periods. As COVID-19 infections rose, the state dropped back to Stage 3 on Oct. 26 and then Stage 2 on Nov. 13, before returning to Stage 3 on Feb. 2, 2021.

It’s unclear what, if any, guidelines will exist if the state advances out of the fourth and final stage of Idaho Rebounds.

In Stage 4, bars, restaurants and nightclubs can now operate without seating-only restrictions, according to the state’s website. Masks still will be required at long-term care facilities.

Stage 4 guidance encourages vaccines for all eligible people and strongly recommends face coverings in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

The Stage 4 decision comes after the number of COVID-19 cases has decreased over the past few weeks.

“We’re currently seeing some of the best numbers we have seen since last summer,” Jeppesen said in a Tuesday press release. “We think the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the main reasons for that, and we want to encourage people who haven’t yet gotten the vaccine to consider choosing to get the vaccine to allow things to continue to improve.”