Greg Moore Sun Valley Mask

Masks are commonplace in Sun Valley since the resort reopened a month ago, but there is still no legal requirement to wear one.

The cities of Sun Valley and Bellevue each passed resolutions encouraging the use of face masks Thursday, splitting from the city of Hailey’s decision earlier in the week to implement a legally enforceable order.

Following a lengthy discussion, Sun Valley City Council voted 3-1 to pass an “interim resolution” regarding the use of masks within the city of Sun Valley. The council intends to meet within seven days of last night’s meeting to add details to the resolution and to possibly accept a public health order from the mayor regarding mandatory mask usage.

The resolution, which councilman Keith Saks suggested be called an “interim resolution” to indicate that it is not the final version, encourages the wearing of facial coverings and observing of social distancing measures in public places in order to limit the “ill effects of the disease.” However, a resolution is simply a declarative statement from the city. Legally, it cannot be enforced.

Councilwoman Jane Conard emphasized that point by calling the resolution a “toothless statement.” She voted against the resolution after sharing an anecdotal story of two men from the valley who overheard people talking about coming from Boise to Sun Valley because the bars in Boise have been ordered to close due to a surge in new cases.

“Sun Valley is open,” Conard said, adding that those who do not claim residency in Blaine County, such as second-home owners, may not be counted if tested positive for the coronavirus here. That could mean the county’s case number might be higher than reported by the health district, Conard said.

Councilman Keith Saks, who along with his wife contracted COVID-19, was also in favor of stronger and more enforceable language that would highlight the severity of the ongoing pandemic.

“It is an emergency and it is a crisis,” Saks said on Thursday night. “The time for ‘pretty please’ is over.” While most businesses in the valley encourage the use of masks for patrons, Saks said, people do not have to follow those encouragements, creating a risk for the general public.

Councilwoman Michelle Griffith, the longest serving councilperson currently on the elected body, said she liked “the path of least resistance and speed.” She told the council that she spent the day on Thursday walking through Sun Valley Resort’s village and speaking with store owners, employees and patrons regarding the use of masks. According to Griffith, no one she spoke with knew the difference between a resolution—a declaration from the city—and an ordinance—a law enacted by the city. To them, Griffith said, passing a resolution with strong language would read as a mandate without being a law, “for regular people who didn’t go to law school.”

Councilman Brad DuFur, who also said he and his family had the coronavirus, didn’t agree with how Hailey’s mandate is written. Whatever Sun Valley passes, he said, would need to have clear language and guidelines for residents and visitors to know when they do and do not need to a wear a mask, such as when hiking or biking along the city’s bike path.

The councilmembers will now meet again within seven days to create stronger language and possibly approve a public health order, which the mayor may or may not declare. The week will also give the public an opportunity to weigh in, beyond the one Sun Valley resident who sent in public comment for Thursday’s meeting.

“We’re not being beaten down the door by people asking us to save their life,” Griffith said.

The passed resolution can be found on the city’s website at sunvalleyidaho.gov, and any public comment can be emailed to nflannigan@sunvalleyidaho.gov.

Bellevue balks at mask requirement

In Bellevue, the city council passed a resolution 3-2 after a failed 2-3 vote to pass an order, Mayor Ned Burns said. Council President Kathryn Goldman and Councilman Greg Cappel voted in favor of both the order and the resolution, according to Burns, and Councilman Doug Brown and Councilman Chris Johnson voted against both the order and the resolution. Councilman Sean Mahoney voted against the order but in favor of the resolution.

“The primary thing is that we want to avoid another shutdown,” Goldman told the Idaho Mountain Express on Friday. “We want to keep our economy going and protect health care workers and other frontline folks working in our grocery stores, driving buses and more. And masks are proven effective. They are one piece of the puzzle that will allow us to do that.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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