Idaho will remain in Stage 4 of Gov. Brad Little’s coronavirus rebound plan for at least another two weeks, the governor announced Thursday afternoon.

The fourth and final stage of the plan was initially set to end Saturday, lifting certain safety guidance for businesses and travelers. But Idaho didn’t meet the criteria for advancing, state officials said Thursday, as the number of cases in the state has continued to rise.

“What we’re doing is we’re not slamming on the brakes, we’re tapping on the brakes,” Little told reporters.

Cases statewide have been “increasing pretty dramatically” over the past two weeks, State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn said, in explaining state officials’ reasoning for extending Stage 4. On June 11—two weeks before the press conference—there were 3,302 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Idaho, according to the state’s dedicated coronavirus web page. On Thursday, there were 4,645 cases, with Wednesday seeing the largest single-day increase in cases to date.

Ada County has seen the biggest spike, prompting health officials earlier this week to move the county back into a modified version of Stage 3, with all bars forced to close.

While the entire state will now remain in Stage 4 through at least July 10, Little said Thursday that he believes a regional approach to guidance and restrictions is best, noting that nine counties in Idaho have yet to report a confirmed case of the virus.

Under Stage 4, all open businesses have been asked to continue following personalized safety plans that include social distancing and other precautionary measures. Nonessential travel is allowed to locations that “do not have ongoing transmission.” There is no limit on the size of gatherings, but those gathered are asked to adhere to social distancing and follow other guidelines.

“We anticipate, we hope, we pray, that staying in Stage 4 will be a message to people,” Little said Thursday, stressing the importance of safety practices such as wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance in public and washing your hands often.

“Folks, we want businesses to open,” Little said. “We want our children back in school at the end of summer. So please do not let your guard down.”

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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