Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday extended Idaho’s statewide self-isolation order through the end of the month—though some businesses previously considered nonessential will be allowed to open if they meet certain criteria.

The state’s original order, issued March 25, required Idahoans to self-isolate at home when possible and put restrictions on businesses deemed “nonessential.” It was set to expire Wednesday night.

“Science tells us if we don’t time these measures right, we can worsen the outcome for citizens’ health and the economy weeks and months down the road,” Little said in a press conference Wednesday morning.

Under the updated order, certain nonessential businesses that cannot easily comply with social distancing requirements—such as nightclubs, gyms and hair salons—must remain closed. But other nonessential businesses that were closed under the first version of the order will now be allowed to offer curbside and delivery services. Restaurant operations will still be limited to takeout and delivery only.

The updated version of the order also requires those traveling into Idaho from elsewhere to self-quarantine for 14 days after entering the state, with the exception of those performing essential services or those who live in one state but who work or obtain essential services in another.

That new requirement mirrors local ordinances in Blaine County and the cities of Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue, which require people traveling into Blaine County to self-quarantine for two weeks after arriving. Little said he added the requirement in response to concerns from resort communities.

Idahoans must continue social distancing and hygiene practices, according to the updated order, and should wear face coverings in public places and gloves “as necessary.”

Little’s decision Wednesday came after some elected officials across Idaho had voiced their opposition to the governor’s statewide approach to COVID-19. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, urged Little this past weekend to let the state’s seven public health districts decide for themselves how to respond to the virus, according to a letter obtained by Boise State Public Radio, while several other House lawmakers have described the order as unnecessary or unconstitutional.

In Wednesday’s press conference, Little said he was “sensitive” to input from other elected officials, but added, “But I gotta do what I gotta do for the state of Idaho.”

Earlier this month, Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler asked Little in a publicly shared letter to reconsider the statewide order, writing, “COVID-19 is nothing like the Plague.”

“I get it,” the governor told reporters. “Somewhere in my DNA there’s some libertarian bones and that’s my nature. But this particular issue requires an incredible amount of leadership to make these hard decisions to get over this.”

As long as the state does not see an upward trend of severe COVID-19 cases over the next two weeks, nonessential businesses that meet certain requirements will likely be allowed to reopen after April 30, Little said.

Those requirements will in-clude maintaining social distancing for staff and customers, providing “adequate” sanitation and protective coverings for staff and customers, offering curbside and pickup delivery, limiting the number of people in the business at a time and directing the flow of people inside the business.

“Believe me, nobody wants to get Idaho back to work more than me,” Little said. “Our goal is for most businesses to open at the end of the month with the understanding that it might not be possible if there’s an upward trend in COVID-19 cases in Idaho between now and then.”

As of 9 a.m. Thursday, there were 1,587 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Idaho, including 41 deaths, according to the state’s dedicated coronavirus webpage.

“Your efforts are working,” Little said. “We can only imagine how many more cases and deaths we would have today if we hadn’t sacrificed together to slow the spread. We are truly seeing a flattening of the curve.”

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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