Idaho bars and movie theaters that meet certain safety protocols can reopen Saturday, as the state continues to progress through its four-phase economic recovery plan.

Gov. Brad Little announced Thursday that the state has met the criteria needed to advance to Stage 3 of the plan. Barring any significant increase in coronavirus cases and infection rates, it will enter the fourth and final stage June 13.

As he has done repeatedly over the past month, Little emphasized that public acceptance of the recommended safety protocols, including wearing face coverings and social distancing, is what allows the state to reopen its economy.

“The one and only reason we’re able to progress through the stages of reopening is because the people of Idaho, individually and collectively, have taken responsibility to slow the spread of this disease,” he said. “We control our ability to make consumers and employees confident about going back to work. Our personal choices matter.”

Little noted that nearly a third of Idaho’s population — upward of 500,000 people — “are at risk of developing serious complications from the coronavirus, if they catch it.”

“We can’t rebound if a huge segment of the population is afraid to engage in the economy,” he continued. “They will engage, however, if they feel safe going outside their homes and into businesses. We all have a role in keeping them safe; our personal actions are the most effective way to manage the virus.”

Most Idaho businesses were able to reopen during Stage 1 of the reopening plan, which took effect May 1, or during Stage 2, which began May 16.

Under Stage 3, bars and movie theaters can now reopen, subject to specific safety protocols. Gatherings of up to 50 people are also allowed, so long as appropriate social distancing is maintained.

Nightclubs can also reopen, as long as they operate more as bars and don’t offer dancing or other large group activities; otherwise, they can’t reopen until Stage 4.

“It’s all about transmissability and exposure,” Little said. “In a bar, you can have spacing (between tables). In a nightclub, they’re trying to maximize the number of bodies. The more concentrated people are, the bigger the problem.”

That’s why large venues and sporting events remain prohibited, as do visits to jails and senior living facilities.

“On May 1, 90 percent of Idaho businesses were able to open their doors,” Little said. “On May 16, 95 percent could open. On Saturday, nearly all Idaho businesses will be able to open. We’ve been able to protect the health of Idahoans, while allowing our economy to reopen safely.”

Details regarding the four-stage reopening plan, together with specific safety and sanitation protocols for different industries, can be found online, at rebound.idaho.gov.

William L. Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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