BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho — The Blaine County Commissioners have passed a new health ordinance that will require face coverings in all public places and limit group sizes.
Violations of the health ordinance will result in a $100 fine.
The ordinance comes on the heels of a steep rise in COVID-19 cases in the Magic Valley. For the last several weeks, the area has seen a 40% increase each week in positive COVID-19 cases. As of right now, 25% of St.Luke's Magic Valley's patients are COVID-19 positive, something they say is very unusual.
"We started this week with over 40 patients with covid in our hospital, which was about a quarter of the total census," said Joshua Kern, Vice President of Medical Affairs for St. Luke's Hospital. "Which for any medical provider that's just an unprecedented thing to say that a quarter of the people in your facility are from one infectious disease."
The ordinance would require face coverings in all public spaces, both indoor and outdoor.
"Every person, shall, when in any indoor or outdoor public place, completely cover their nose and mouth, when members of the public are physically present for otherwise unprotected social interaction," it states. "For purposes of this Public Health Emergency Order 'public place' shall mean any place open to all members of public without specific invitation, including but not necessarily limited to, retail business establishments, government offices, medical, educational, arts and recreational institutions, public transportation, including taxi cabs and ridesharing vehicles. 'Members of the public' shall mean persons not therein employed, present without invitation."
The ordinance does outline some exceptions to the proposed requirement:
- Persons with a documented disability.
- Children under the age of 5, but parents are strongly encouraged to have children under 5 wear face coverings if they can tolerate same or to avoid bringing younger children to public places otherwise requiring a face covering.
- Persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a cloth face covering must wear a face shield.
- Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication, must wear a face shield.
- Persons, including on-duty law-enforcement officers, for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
- Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose, face, or head for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.
- Persons who are eating or drinking at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, so long as the person is able to maintain a distance of 6 feet away from persons who are not members of the same party as the person.
- Outdoor public places where people can employ social distancing as recommended by CDC, while continuing to recommend face covering.
The ordinance would also limit group sizes.
"All gatherings of non-household members shall maintain 64 square feet of space per person in every indoor and outdoor space," it states. "No indoor gathering may exceed 10 persons, and no outdoor gathering may exceed 50 persons, which limitations shall apply to all public and private property, private residences, business establishments of any and all type, unless herein below exempted."
The outlined exemptions are:
- Schools and school property.
- Grocery stores.
- Healthcare facilities.
- Households with family units of more than ten (10) people that permanently reside together.
- Institutional facilities operated by government, taxing districts and/or genuine non-profit organizations.
- Any other private business, open to the public without specific invitation, that has adopted, implemented and posted written instructions at all entrances, and in other prominent public places, clearly visible throughout the business, COVID-19 mitigation strategies, enforced by the business, including at a minimum, provision of hand sanitizer or hand washing stations at all entrances and the ability to maintain 64 square feet of space per person in every indoor and outdoor space therein and on said premises, as provided for in Exhibit A, of the Addendum hereto.