Idaho further opens, going to Stage 4 to allow gatherings of any size

Idaho’s coronavirus case numbers are in much better shape. But more Idahoans need vaccines.

By: - May 11, 2021 2:50 pm
Coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccine

Federal regulators have authorized multiple vaccines for emergency use in the prevention of COVID-19, a disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. (Courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Idaho is moving to Stage 4 in its plan for reopening the state’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic. That means Idahoans will be allowed to have gatherings of any size.

Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen announced the move to Stage 4 during a media briefing Tuesday afternoon.

Click here to see what Stage 4 means.

The decision is due to the steadily improved Idaho COVID-19 case numbers, test positivity rates, and hospital and health care resources, Jeppesen said.

But vaccination will be critical to Idaho’s reopening, he said.

“Over 623,000 Idahoans have had at least one shot, which includes almost 74% of those over the age of 65,” Jeppesen said. “However, we are counting on even more Idahoans choosing to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. A COVID-19 vaccine is the best choice we have to keep the coronavirus spread under control, to continue to fuel the Idaho economy, and to ensure that our kids can go back to school in the fall.”

Idaho is far behind other states in the share of population with at least one dose of vaccine. Only four states (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming) have less of their population vaccinated at this point, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Even with better vaccination rates, Idaho’s neighboring states Washington and Oregon have seen a resurgence of cases and hospitalizations in the past month, as more contagious variants of the coronavirus are circulating.

Earlier Tuesday, Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced the state will no longer participate in the federal pandemic unemployment benefit program starting June 19. That program allows people who are self-employed to receive jobless pay and provides enhanced unemployment benefits to people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

“Employers are telling me one of the big reasons they cannot recruit and retain some workers is because those employees are receiving more on unemployment than they would while working,” Little said in a news release announcing the change. “We want people working. A strong economy cannot exist without workers returning to a job.”

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Dutton hails from Twin Falls. She attended college at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.