Idaho enters final reopening stage

Posted at 3:46 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 17:46:29-04

BOISE — Idaho moves into the final stage of the reopening plan, though Governor Little and health officials shared at Thursday's press conference that almost wasn't the case due to a recent spike in cases.

Starting Saturday, 100% of Idaho businesses can open, as well as visits to senior living centers, large venues, night clubs, and gatherings greater than 50 people can begin again.

However, it's hasn't been an entirely positive trend to get there.

"I want to stress something very important; we almost did not make it to Stage 4 this week," said Governor Little.

Data shows there was a spike of cases in early June and a concerning increase in healthcare workers testing positive.

"This is a trend we're worried about," said Dr. Christine Hahn, "we would like to see fewer than two healthcare workers per day reported, and we actually would not have met if that was our only criteria, we would not have met it because we had exactly 2 per day on average so we can't consider act less than 2."

That surge, health officials say, is, in part, correlated to more testing.

"You can see there that the percent of tests that are being done out there the percent positivity has actually been falling, which is a good sign, partly I think we're testing more people who are asymptomatic," said Hahn.

Multiple areas did show a downward trend, which is why the state is reopening.

"We made it, but we're not spiking the football," said Little.

Still, thousands of Idahoans are struggling with unemployment. Governor little admits fault in the unemployment system.

"Yes, the state and federal government did fail, I readily admit that," said Little.

"There are 80 different issues we have to address in some of these unemployment claims, and if it were just a state program or even just a federal program it would be easier, but those two programs conflict in many issues, but I think we're going to get there," said Little,

"some of the states are more automated to where when you filed you got a query back that said this isn't right, this isn't right, we didn't have that in Idaho, and it caused a lot of phone calls to go back and forth on an overworked system which went from only a thousand claims to 30,000 in a matter of two weeks."

So what happens if an upward trend begins as businesses head back into the full swing? That question is being weighed now.

"There are lots of options, it probably won't be statewide, if you're in Shoshone county where you've yet to have one case, and it's in the upper snake river valley, then it will be more regional than it will be statewide."

Governor Little says he believes they're on track to have all the unemployment issues addressed in a matter of weeks.

Little says there's also a pathway the state is on to hire more adjudicators to work on the unemployment issues.

"I just can't hire a call center and hire people off the street without taking my trained adjudicators and having them lessen their throughput as they train the new adjudicators, but we've got a pathway, we think we're going to get there pretty soon, but I don't know how many adjudicators," said Little.