Masks in public

The Hailey City Council has only advised, not mandated, that face coverings be worn this summer. An order set to go before the council on Monday would once again mandate face coverings in indoor public spaces and in outdoor public places when distancing can’t be maintained.

Mayor Martha Burke and the Hailey City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 13 to consider a new health order that would legally require residents to wear face coverings in public where social distancing can’t be maintained.

The order would require masks—or face shields for people intolerant of masks—to be worn in retail shops, grocery stores and on buses. Business owners would also be legally required to enforce the mandate with signage outside their establishments.

Exemptions to the proposed mask mandate include children under the age of 2, people receiving cosmetic or medical treatments involving the face and those eating and drinking at restaurants.

Several concerns led Burke to bring a mask mandate before the City Council. Factors cited in a city of Hailey report included the inability for children and pre-teens to get a vaccine; critical hospital staffing and ICU bed shortages across the state; Blaine County’s position in the “critical” risk category on the state’s assessment rubric; and the CDC’s updated guidelines on Sept. 1, which state that everyone should wear masks in indoor and close-contact public spaces regardless of vaccine status.

In August, Burke and the City Council stressed the importance of public mask wearing but stopped short of passing a mask mandate. Burke said in a recent council meeting that her main concern was protecting kids 12 years old and under who aren’t vaccinated. On Wednesday, nine students and four staff members in the Blaine County School District had tested positive for COVID-19, while more than 60 students and staff were in quarantine, according to a city of Hailey report.

Councilman Sam Linnet shared Burke’s objective, adding that he was also highly concerned with non-COVID patients facing potentially life-threatening delays in medical care and missing out on elective procedures.

No group capacity restrictions or indoor dining room closures will be considered on Monday.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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