BLAINE, CO — Blaine County is the only area in the Magic Valley that has once again begun to reinforce strict COVID-19 safety protocols. Hailey, Sun Valley, and Blaine County Commissioners have issued mask mandates in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 following an upward trend in cases and the impacts they're having on the hospital.
“We’ve now gone to crisis standards of care," said Blaine County Commissioner, Angenie McCleary. "We really believe that we need to do everything we can to mitigate that risk of COVID to our residents and hopefully help reduce the burden on the medical system.”
Hailey city council will be meeting in four weeks to discuss rescinding the mandate. Ketchum and Sun Valley will come back to discuss the requirement in 90 days, and Blaine County Commissioners do not currently have a date set but will continue to monitor the ongoing situation.
The current mandates in place require residents in these locations to wear masks in indoor public spaces when maintaining a distance of six feet is not possible. It is recommended to wear a mask outdoors as well where social distancing cannot be maintained.
There are some exemptions to wearing the masks, such as children under the age of 5 do not have to wear them, people who are not able to wear masks for medical purposes, and some other reasons.
“If you’re receiving a service on your face, you don’t have to wear a face covering," said McCleary. "If you’re at a restaurant and you’re at a table eating with your party, and your table is distanced from other tables, and you’re eating and drinking, you don’t need a face covering.”
For those who do not fall under the exemption list, choosing to not comply with the mandate can result in a fine.
Despite the extra efforts being taken, there still are some concerns, like the fact that Blaine County is a popular tourist attraction as well as the current vaccination rates.
“We need our vaccination rates in our state to be much higher than they are, and so anything that can be done to advocate for people to get vaccinated is extremely important at this time,” said McCleary.
Due to how fast COVID-19 is managing to spread and the impact it is having on hospitals, health officials hope individuals will do their part and take steps to keep others safe.
“You have to be an advocate for your own health," said Brianna Bodily, the spokesperson for the South Central Public Health District. "You have to say the hard things ‘Will you wear your mask around me?’ Ask if somebody is even vaccinated before you spend time with them so that if you want to ditch the mask you can. Those kinds of things are very important right now.”
Some city and county officials would also like to see neighboring communities follow suit and enforce more COVID-19 safety protocols.
“When you see the difference between recommendations versus requirements, the compliance is very different," said McCleary. "I think you see much higher results when you have a health order or ordinance in place.”