The Bellevue City Council voted 3-2 Monday to rescind a mask order that had been in place since late September to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The order has required residents and visitors to wear face masks indoors in public spaces and in groups outside where social distancing is not possible.
The vote was taken after Mayor Ned Burns, who has been attending regular meetings on the pandemic, told the council that most of Idaho, including Blaine County, was now out of “crisis standards of care” brought on by increases in coronavirus cases earlier this year and a subsequent strain on hospital resources.
On Nov. 22, crisis standards of care were deactivated by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, except for the Panhandle Health District in north Idaho. New COVID-19 cases in Idaho numbered 632 on Tuesday, down from 1,164 a month ago. The seven-day average number of deaths in Idaho decreased from 22 on Oct. 23 to nine on Nov. 12 and then rose to 16 by Nov. 22.
Burns said the change in designation of care standards means hospitals can now attend to “thousands” of elective surgeries that had been put on hold in the face of potential new COVID-19 cases that could overwhelm medical facilities.
Councilman Doug Brown made a motion to rescind the mask order. Councilman Shaun Mahoney, a restaurateur, said his customers are already making up their own minds whether to wear masks.
“Some wear them and some don’t, and I’m fine with that,” he said.
Council members Greg Cappel and Kathryn Goldman said they would prefer to wait until after Thanksgiving or later to rescind the order.
Councilman Chris Johnson said he has seen lax compliance with the order and about a 50% compliance around the state during his travels, less in some places.
“If the shots work, the shots work,” he said. “We should rescind the order and wish everyone Happy Holidays.”
Cappel and Goldman voted to keep the mask order in place but were overruled.
“I can have Happy Holidays and still wear a mask,” Cappel said.