Ketchum City Council members on Monday unanimously approved a citywide health order that revises and clarifies coronavirus-related regulations.
The action came after Gov. Brad Little moved Idaho last week into a modified version of Stage 3 of the Idaho Rebounds coronavirus response plan, implementing more restrictive statewide measures to bring case counts down. The statewide health order signed by the governor on Oct. 26 includes limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, certain safety requirements for long-term care facilities and a seating-only policy at bars, restaurants and nightclubs. It does not include a statewide mask mandate.
The city can implement measures that are more restrictive than those enacted by the state, and has done so this year. Little has said he generally favors a “localized” approach to implementing measures to limit the spread of the potentially fatal virus.
The city health order—which went into effect at 12 a.m. Tuesday—maintains provisions of a previous health order enacted on Oct. 20, but also implements slight changes to regulations for outdoor gatherings and clarifies operation protocols for bars and restaurants. It maintains pre-existing rules requiring face coverings, except in specific cases and situations.
In assessing the threat of the coronavirus in the city and immediate surrounding area, Fire Chief Bill McLaughlin said there has been “known community spread” in schools, restaurants and bars but the number of cases in the city has not increased “at a dramatic rate.”
“The situation is not accelerating but it is continuing,” he said.
However, case numbers tracked on a broader level, in the region and the state, have been surging significantly.
The main elements of the health order enacted on Oct. 20 were:
• A requirement that people in the city “shall, when in any indoor or outdoor public place, completely cover their nose and mouth when members of the public are physically present.” That language re-established an existing mask mandate in the city.
• A requirement that “all gatherings of non-household members shall maintain 64 square feet of space per person in every indoor and outdoor space,” or room.
• A requirement that indoor gatherings not exceed 10 people and outdoor gatherings not exceed 50 people.
• A provision that people who violate the order can be fined $100.
Exemptions for the mask requirement include children under age 5, people who cannot tolerate wearing a face covering for medical reasons, certain public servants, people performing a service that requires removal of their mask, people who are receiving food or beverage service who remain 6 feet apart from people not of the same household or party, and people in outdoor public places where they can properly maintain social distance.
Exemptions to the limitations on gatherings include schools; grocery stores; health care facilities; households with more than 10 people; certain government-operated facilities; private businesses that implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies and post informational signs about those strategies, and maintain “64 square feet of space per person in every indoor and outdoor space therein”; and businesses that have obtained city approval for a plan to implement additional mitigation measures.
Those elements of the Oct. 20 health order remain in effect, through inclusion in the new health order.
Additions and revisions in the new health order include:
• A change to the requirement for outdoor gatherings to better align with the state regulations, with added language stating that “no outdoor gathering may exceed fifty persons or 25 percent of the maximum permitted occupancy of the space.”
• An addition to the section of the order governing group sizes that states bars and restaurants are required to follow the state’s Stage 3 guidelines. If the business fails to follow the state guidelines, it will be required to follow the city’s standard of maintaining 64 square feet of space per person.
City regulations that are stricter than those of the state—such as the mask requirement—do remain in effect. The main elements of the state’s Stage 3 regulations are:
• Indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people or less.
• Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 percent capacity.
• Physical distancing requirements—staying 6 feet apart from people not in one’s household—are in place for gatherings of all types.
• There must be seating only—no standing or mingling—at bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Nightclubs can only operate as bars.
• Employers should continue to protect at-risk employees by allowing remote work or by making special accommodations for those people in the workplace.
• All individuals and businesses should follow recommended protocols for minimizing transmission of the virus—as outlined on rebound.idaho.gov—including washing hands, wearing face coverings in public and staying home if sick.
Idaho had been in Stage 4—with less restrictive protocols for Idaho residents and businesses—since June 13.
As of Monday night, there had been 65,845 total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases statewide—including 632 COVID-related deaths—with 757 new cases reported that day. Blaine County on Monday had a total of 873 confirmed and 46 probable cases.
Blaine County remained in the “red”—or critical—risk level for coronavirus on Tuesday, as assessed in the county’s risk-assessment model. From Oct. 18-24, the county had a positivity rate of 10 percent in coronavirus tests and a seven-day-average rate of 34.1 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. Both those statistics meet the county’s criteria for a critical risk level, the highest level in its model.