Idaho entered the fourth stage of its plan to reopen on Saturday. All Idaho businesses can open their doors and resume serving their customers, with recommended precautions in place. However, we are not out of the woods yet.
It is tempting to act as if life is back to normal, back to before COVID-19 was spreading in Idaho’s communities. Everyone is tired of staying home and wearing face coverings when we venture out in public, myself included.
But we can’t go back to normal yet because COVID-19 is still here. It’s still circulating and making people sick.
As evidence, we have recent reports of more than 30 people who visited bars in Downtown Boise who later tested positive for COVID-19 or are considered probable cases because they have the symptoms and were in close contact with the people who tested positive.
We have reports of many people testing positive for COVID-19 after attending family reunions, family and community barbeques, graduation and birthday parties, and church gatherings. We even have a few reports of deaths for people who attended these kinds of gatherings.
Even though we have entered Stage 4 and businesses are open, it’s important to keep doing the things we all should be doing to protect ourselves, our families, friends, neighbors, and people in the community. It is our social responsibility to take precautionary measures and protect those people around us who may not be able to protect themselves. If we stay this course, we can continue to safely keep the doors open to businesses and connect with our friends and families.
It’s critical to remember that every activity involving other people has some degree of risk of getting infected with COVID-19. It’s up to you and your family to manage that risk in such a way that you are protecting yourselves and others as much as possible until a vaccine or therapeutic treatment is found.
The risk of spreading COVID-19 is higher the more closely you interact with others, and the risk increases with the length of time of that interaction and the number of people involved. I’m not saying you can’t gather with loved ones to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, and other milestones. But I am imploring you that if you choose to participate in these activities, you do so using all the recommended precautions:
- Stay home if you feel sick.
- When you go out, keep 6 feet between you and everyone else in public.
- Wear a face covering or mask in public if you can’t keep 6 feet between you and everyone else.
- Wash and sanitize your hands frequently.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
Idaho has launched ONE Idaho: “We are stronger together. We are one Idaho.” Idahoans can show their support for an open, safe, and healthy state by taking the ONE Idaho Pledge, committing to do their part as a business owner, employee, or consumer. Details about the ONE Idaho initiative can be found at one.idaho.gov/.
The pandemic has not ended, and COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come. No matter how we feel about some of the precautions, practicing those precautions is the socially responsible thing to do to keep the economy functioning and Idahoans working, protect the people who are at greater risk of COVID-19 in our state, and get Idaho back to its pre-COVID-19 days.
Elke Shaw-Tulloch is the administrator of the Division of Public Health and the state’s public health officer.