The Bellevue City Council agreed on Monday to hold off on detailed planning for the city’s Labor Day festivities until the risk of COVID-19 transmission on Sept. 7 can be determined.
That means keeping a close eye on Hailey’s scheduled Fourth of July parade and community events over the summer to measure the threat, councilmembers and staff said.
City Council Chairwoman Kathryn Goldman said a wait-and-see attitude would be best.
“Let’s follow what happens with Hailey’s Fourth of July parade and maybe we can learn from it,” Goldman said.
At the meeting, Bellevue Labor Day Committee member Heather Johnson said she was “very concerned” about holding ordinary Labor Day events at Memorial Park with the usual number of vendors, bands and participants.
“I don’t know how we can do Labor Day and stay safe,” Johnson said.
She said five vendors, who tend to be elderly, had already canceled due to health concerns.
Insurance for last year’s event cost $800 for two days, about 20 percent of the overall budget, Johnson said. She said she has found instances of premiums rising due to the coronavirus and would not be able to get a quote until final plans for the events are arranged.
Mayor Ned Burns told the Express that up to 1,000 people typically gather at Memorial Park for six hours each day for two days. “Maybe 25 percent” of that number could fit in the park with current social distancing measures in place, he said.
“Part of the fun is being arm-in-arm with every neighbor you’ve got,” Johnson said. “But what if Blaine County has another spike [in coronavirus cases] because Bellevue had Labor Day? I don’t need that kind of press.”
The Washington Post reported this week that coronavirus hospitalization rates have increased in at least a nine states since Memorial Day, including Oregon and Utah.
“The spikes generally began in the past couple weeks and in most states are trending higher,” the Post reported.
Though Blaine County was an early hot spot for the virus and has had five deaths, stay-at-home orders and other safety protocols have limited transmission and nearly eliminated the number of reported new cases since May. Nearby counties are seeing a rise, though, including Twin Falls, which reported 22 deaths as of Wednesday.
Councilman Shaun Mahoney, who lost a friend to the virus, said at the meeting Monday that he was in Twin Falls over the weekend and grew concerned after shopping at Target.
“Nobody besides us was wearing facemasks and there must have been 500 people in the store,” Mahoney said.
The City Council has proposed a dispersed Labor Day Parade that would snake through town, similar to the parade that Hailey has planned for the Fourth of July, but no final determination has been made.
Burns said Labor Day events could provide an opportunity for local businesses and restaurants to make some money after a “brutal” second quarter, perhaps with curbside “grab-and-go” meals for sale.
Mahoney, who owns a restaurant on Main Street, said he supports the idea.
For Johnson, reducing the number of Labor Day celebrations from two days to one would be best, even though it would limit visits and shopping in town following Ketchum’s planned, though limited, Wagon Days festivities.
“I feel bad losing out on that Wagon Days crowd, but we can’t accommodate them,” she said.
The City Council will hold another public hearing on July 13 to address the scheduling of Labor Day events.