Coronavirus Cleaning

Laren Peterson, left, and Jessica Owen of Valley Maintenance & Restoration don protective gear to clean Wood River Insurance on Friday morning, May 1, as the office prepares to reopen. 

Idaho began to re-open today as the first phase of Gov. Brad Little’s four-stage easing of coronavirus restrictions replaced the state’s stay-at-home order—but questions remain around what the roll-out may look like for some workers. Meanwhile, the Forest Service preps for a strange summer in the Sawtooths. Here’s that, and more headlines from Friday, May 1.

• The South Central Public Health District didn’t update the local coronavirus count on Friday. Blaine County ended April with 487 lab-confirmed and 10 probable cases of COVID-19. Only 16 of them are still being monitored by health officials.

• Churches, daycares and youth camps can open their doors today under Gov. Brad Little’s plan to resume business across the state. Most retail stores can reopen, too, Little said, as long as they follow social distancing and sanitation protocols.

But things are less clear for employees who don’t feel safe returning to the job, Gretel Kauffman writes. Yesterday, Little couldn’t say whether employees who chose not to return to work for fear of contracting and spreading the coronavirus would still be eligible for unemployment benefits.

“I’ll be straight with you,” Little told the Mountain Express, “I don’t know.”

Little’s four-step plan spans until June 12.

• Citing the governor’s plan, the U.S. Forest Service will keep developed campgrounds in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area closed until June 5. Dispersed camping is open, Forest Service spokeswoman Julie Thomas told the Express. So are trailheads and boat docks. Right now, though, the SNRA can’t operate under Gov. Little’s coronavirus social-distancing rules, sanitation protocols, and limitations on gatherings, Thomas said.

“Our concessionaires and employees can’t meet the standards the governor has set,” Thomas said. “If the governor’s orders were to change, we’d change with them.”

• Earlier this week, the Forest Service also set a 10-person cap on groups recreating in Idaho’s national forests. The move could have a big impact on outdoor businesses, Emily Jones writes. 

• On Wednesday, we reported how the virus has tanked the market for some commercial farmers. But, Gretel Kauffman writes, some small farmers have found fertile ground in the new normal. Click here to read that piece.

• Looking for something to keep your kids busy this weekend? Try The Sage School’s Birding Bingo, Chris Melville writes. Click here to learn how.

As of 5 p.m. on Friday, Idaho had 2,035 lab-confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, 20 more than yesterday, according to the state Department of Health & Welfare. Sixty-three people have died, and 1,215 have recovered. For more coverage of the outbreak, as well as other local news, pick up today’s edition of the Idaho Mountain Express, and check throughout the weekend for more updates.

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