Simply asking people to cover their mouths and noses to stop the spread of coronavirus isn’t working. It’s time to make the use of masks or face coverings mandatory for all.
Enforcement should be as important as en-forcement of no-parking zones. Exceeding a par-king time limit won’t kill anyone, but failing to use a mask could do so in this Year of COVID-19.
Some shoppers are refusing “suggestions” to use face coverings posted on the doorways of local businesses. Some workers are, too. They behave as they would on any ordinary day in any ordinary time in any ordinary town.
This is no ordinary time. Blaine County’s towns aren’t ordinary either. Residents just smashed the spiking coronavirus by staying home and staying at least 6 feet away from each other.
It’s no time to get sloppy and end that success. With summer coming, Blaine County and its cities should put emergency ordinances on the books to require face coverings for both in-store workers and customers. They did so for construction workers starting last week. To do less is to invite COVID-19 to re-emerge with a vengeance.
With Idaho putting plans in place to allow some businesses to reopen and to reduce travel restrictions, the cities must act. Mayors and city councils have broad legal powers to stem the spread of infectious diseases. They need to use them again, as they did when they enacted local stay-at-home orders more stringent than the state’s.
With previous ordinances, Blaine County and its cities prohibited the use of handheld cell phones while driving. They did so because calling and driving threatened the safety of others as much as drinking and driving. This virus poses a similar threat.
Research has shown that when infected people speak or sneeze, they eject droplets from their mouths and noses that contain the virus. The droplets travel through the air and spread the virus from person to person. Face coverings reduce or stop the dangerous droplets.
Epidemiologists and health experts agree that it is not a matter of if COVID-19 infections will increase when travel and business restrictions are relaxed, it’s a matter of how high they will go.
It is important to get local face-covering ordinances in place before more visitors arrive in our popular mountain towns. The ordinances can be enforced with inspections, warnings, citations and fines.
Every business that opens to the public will need to post local rules prominently. They will need backing and enforcement from the cities to ensure that face-covering becomes a habit for everyone.
In our mountain paradise, it’s easy to get a sunshine high that obliterates worry, makes people feel safe and relaxes caution. It’s no time to relax.
No one wants Blaine County to become a COVID-19 hotspot again. No one wants anyone else to get sick.
Together, we have to be patient and smart. We have to agree to make the use of face coverings a habit to protect ourselves and everyone we meet. Doing so must become as important and as enforceable as not parking in a no-parking zone.