A state-issued isolation order for Blaine County residents went into effect at midnight Friday night.
The order requires all people living in Blaine County to “stay and work from home as much as possible while ensuring all essential services and business remain available,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in a memo attached to the order.
It will remain in place until 11:59 p.m. on April 13 unless the Jeppesen extends, rescinds, or changes it. The full order can be found on the Blaine County website.
Blaine County is the first and only county in Idaho to be put under a state-issued “shelter in place” order. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, there were 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the county, according to the South Central Public Health District—the highest concentration of cases in the state.
Violations of the order may be charged criminally with a misdemeanor. Blaine County law enforcement agencies say they plan to enforce the order through education, warnings, or dispersal of gatherings when possible, though officers do have the option to enforce with a misdemeanor charge in the case of a “blatant violation.”
“Given the unprecedented nature of this event, our agencies are in agreement to take a common-sense approach, consider the context of each situation, and utilize lesser sanctions…if warranted,” Blaine County Sheriff Steve Harkins and local chiefs of police said in a statement Monday. “We hope that due to the seriousness of this health crisis, the public will willingly comply with the order for the safety of our community.”
Under the new requirements, “gatherings of individuals outside the home” are prohibited, with exceptions for certain “essential activities,” “essential travel,” to perform work for “essential businesses and government agencies” or to perform “essential infrastructure work.”
All bars and nightclubs have been ordered to close, along with all indoor gyms and recreation facilities. Restaurants and cafes were also required to close, but can still offer takeout and delivery.
Essential activities as defined by the order include going to the doctor, obtaining necessary groceries and supplies, caring for a family member or pet in a different household, and outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, running, and bicycling. Essential businesses include grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats, banks, and childcare facilities.
Travel is allowed if someone is participating in an essential activity or going to work at an essential business, traveling to care for a vulnerable person, picking up meals or learning materials from an educational institution, or traveling in or out of the county to return to their home.
Employers who do not provide essential businesses or government services must “take all steps necessary for employees to work from home to the extent possible,” according to the order.
In situations where individuals do interact outside of the home, they must stay at least six feet away from each other, cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or use hand sanitizer, and not shake hands.
No person who is sick may go to the workplace or be outside the home “except as necessary to seek or receive medical care in accordance with guidance from public health officials.”
All first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, law enforcement personnel, and others working for or to support essential businesses are exempt from the order.
Those experiencing homelessness are also exempt from the self-isolation order, but are “strongly urged” to find shelter. Governmental and other entities are “strongly urged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extent possible.”