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.

Three cities and unincorporated Blaine County will meet next week to consider reimplementing mask requirements to combat surging COVID-19 caseloads in the Wood River Valley and beyond.

The run of meetings comes as Blaine County's COVID-19 caseload continues to rise fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. This week, the South Central Public Health District kept Blaine at "critical" risk in its biweekly assessment, the highest category on its scale. 

Hailey, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Blaine County will all meet between Monday and Tuesday. Each jurisdiction had previously implemented a mask requirement, though each lifted their rule with falling COVID-19 risk in the spring. 

Hailey's city council will convene at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 13, to discuss an emergency health order that 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. Hailey leaders have issued a formal recommendation asking people to wear masks, but--like nearly all local jurisdictions--it hasn't had a requirement in law for months.

That meeting is open to the public in the second floor of Hailey City Hall, but you can also call 872-240-3311 and enter access code 543-667-133, or type https://www.gotomeet.me/CityofHaileyCityCouncil into your web browser to view virtually. 

The Blaine County commissioners plan to revisit their mask ordinance the following morning, Tuesday, Sept. 14, in a meeting starting at 9 a.m. at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey. Commissioner meetings are open to the public, but those interested are "strongly encouraged" to attend commissioner meetings virtually; to do it, visit https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/228880013 online. 

Further north, the city of Sun Valley will reconsider COVID-19 safety policies during a special meeting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Live streaming of that meeting is available on the city's website at www.SunValleyIdaho.gov. To date, Sun Valley officials have voiced preliminary support the most stringent COVID-19 protocols in the valley. Earlier this month, the city council instructed staff to research and draft ordinances that would mandate masks and require vaccinations for certain activities. 

Finally, Ketchum is planning a special meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to consider a formal health order and mask mandate, City Councilwoman Amanda Breen said on Facebook Friday. This week, the city issued an official recommendation asking people to wear masks, but stopped short of an ordinance. Find more information on that meeting as it becomes available at www.ketchumidaho.org.

On Thursday, the district was monitoring 147 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Blaine County and 18 probable cases, nearly double the number of cases it was monitoring two weeks earlier and about four times the number four weeks earlier.

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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