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Gov. Brad Little Releases His Roadmap To Reopen Idaho's Economy

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DARIN OSWALD
/
Idaho Statesman

On Thursday, Gov. Brad Little (R) unveiled his plan to reopen Idaho’s economy beginning May 1, releasing his roadmap as tensions over his stay-at-home order continue to rise.

Little’s plan comes in four phases in two-week intervals. Starting May 1, many businesses and churches can re-open if they can follow distancing and sanitation guidelines. That doesn’t include gyms, bars, or dine-in restaurants.

The growth of new cases of coronavirus in Idaho has slowed down, though the rate of testing has declined. Little said he wants more testing capacity, but still celebrated the news.

“Our efforts to slow the spread have worked so well, in fact, that we have entered a new chapter – a very welcome chapter,” he said.

If the number of coronavirus cases continues to drop and hospitals aren’t overwhelmed, further restrictions will be lifted. If there are no setbacks, all businesses could re-open by the end of June, though some, like bars and movie theaters, might have capacity limits.

“‘Somewhat normal’ is a good description. We are not going to be back to normal until we have a vaccine.”

When asked about businesses that have already re-opened in violation of his order, Little said it’s a very small minority.

“I don’t think it’s good for their business. I think it’s disrespectful of everybody else that’s compliant with it and I trust consumer opinion and peer pressure to perhaps be the best cure for this,” he said.

Tensions over the order have been simmering over the last week. On Tuesday, anti-vaccine activist Sara Brady and several other moms staged a protest at a Meridian Park with their kids. After being asked to leave several times, Brady turned her back and hands toward the officer, telling him to arrest her. She was later charged with trespassing at a closed playground. 

“Disgusting,” the governor said after being asked his thoughts on the matter. “Next question.”

His second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, has also criticized Little’s order.

She’s scheduled to speak at an “All Jobs Are Essential” rally in Rexburg this weekend. Organizers recently moved the event to an online-only format. Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman, whose organization has urged Idahoans to “disobey” the governor, was also supposed to be there, but he’s since been disinvited.

It’s a quick shift in positions for McGeachin. She wrote a letter to Little on April 14, saying that she reluctantly supported extending the stay-at-home order for another ten days. But just three days later, she urged him to declare all jobs “essential” and allow business owners to immediately reopen after April 30.

State Rep. Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell) took to Facebook Wednesday blasting her. He called Lt. Gov. McGeachin, Sara Brady and Second Amendment Alliance President Greg Pruett “snake oil salesmen and political opportunists” during this pandemic.

“Sara is after attention, Pruett is after donations and McGeachin wants to be governor,” Chaney said.

He said he understands why people are concerned about their constitutional rights during this time, but that they’re overlooking the real threat.

“This group of people, who are using a fake view of your liberties to manipulate and leverage you into their own personal gain, in my opinion, are far, far more dangerous than anything else that we have going on in this state right now.”

In a statement, McGeachin said Chaney “is not telling the truth” and that she’s never advocated for civil disobedience under the governor’s order, or participated in a protest against it. She wants him to retract his remarks.

In a blog post, Pruett denies helping plan the Meridian protest and called on Chaney to apologize. Brady didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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