On April 23, 2020, Idaho’s Governor Little adopted “Guidelines” that constitute a “data-driven approach to opening up Idaho’s economy.”  The proposed approach is intended to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the State’s most vulnerable population and preserve capacity in the healthcare system, while opening up businesses safely.  The Governor’s action readily acknowledges that employee and consumer confidence is necessary to promote business stability and growth.

Re-opening is phased using four increments that may begin on May 1, 2020.  This plan, however, is contingent upon review by the Idaho Division of Public Health and the Governor’s Coronavirus Working Group of syndromic, epidemiological and healthcare criteria every two weeks to assess if criteria are met or continue to be met.  To being or advance to the next stage, all criteria must be met.  If the criteria indicate that trends are beginning to move in the wrong direction, or there is evidence that a stage has adversely impacted rates, stages may have to be extended or reversed.  The dates proposed in this Guideline are only an estimated timeline.

At all times and regardless of stage, residents and employers must:

  • Maintain the six-foot physical distancing requirements for employees and patrons
  • Provide adequate sanitation and personal hygiene for employees, vendors, and patrons
  • Ensure frequent disinfection of the business as well as regular cleaning, especially of high-touch surfaces
  • Identify how personal use items such as masks, face coverings, and gloves may be required by employees, vendors, and/or patrons
  • Provide services while limiting close interactions with patrons
  • Identify strategies for addressing ill employees, which should include requiring COVID-19 positive employees to stay at home while infectious, and may include keeping employees who were directly exposed to a COVID-19 positive employee away from the workplace, and the closure of the business until the location can be properly disinfected
  • On a case-by-case basis, include other practices appropriate for specific types of businesses such as screening of employees for illness and exposures upon work entry, requiring non-cash transactions, etc.

During the initial phase from May 1 to May 15, assuming the criteria mentioned above have been met, employers should continue to encourage telework, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.  Employees should be returned to work in phases, if physical distancing, personal protections and sanitation are feasible.  Vulnerable individuals should continue to self-quarantine.  Of significance, employers should make special workplace accommodations for these employees if they are unable to work from home.  Non-essential businesses which are not excluded in the amended order may implement plans for re-opening that demonstrate the ability to meet business protocols.

While the Guidelines adopted today represent an important first step, they are obviously contingent upon the State’s ability to demonstrate that conditions have improved and will continue to do so.  Employers would be wise to carefully study the contemplated course of action and to begin addressing how they can fulfill what will be required of them.