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Boise mayor mandates wearing mask in public starting July 4 as COVID-19 illnesses surge


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There is confusion about the benefits of wearing a mask to protect yourself against the novel coronavirus. Here’s how to do it properly. | BY DAVID CARACCIO

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – Boise Mayor Lauren McLean signed a public health emergency order Thursday making face coverings mandatory in the city of Boise because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The order is effective Saturday at 12:01 a.m., according to a statement issued by the mayor’s office. Masks, bandannas or other coverings that completely cover the nose and mouth will be required in all indoor and outdoor public places. There will be a few exceptions, for children younger than 5, on-duty first responders, and those with health problems.

Another exception is for people eating or drinking at restaurant tables, as long as they are at least 6 feet away from others who are not in the same household.

RELATED | Face masks are now required in two Idaho cities. Will others follow as COVID-19 spreads?

The indoor-outdoor order means residents must wear face coverings in businesses and grocery stores and when walking on city sidewalks or in parks. Karen Boe, communications director for the mayor’s office, told the Statesman that if you’re outside and in a place where you could encounter others within 6 feet of you, then a face covering is a requirement.

“Our goal is to allow our businesses to stay open so we don’t experience another spike in infections, causing us to go further back in the Idaho Rebounds stages, rather than slowly and carefully reopening so our economy can recover,” McLean said in her announcement.

According to the order, Boise city officials will “make efforts to educate individuals and businesses to achieve compliance.” But anyone who knowing or voluntarily violates the provisions of the order could be subject to a misdemeanor charge and fine. Under Idaho law, a misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in a county jail or a $1,000 fine, or both.

“We are seeing overwhelming demand for COVID-19 testing at our clinics, and positivity rates are eight times higher than they were in April. We are very concerned about how rapidly this virus is spreading through the community,” said Dr. David Peterman, Primary Health Medical Group CEO, in a news release. “Wearing masks has been proven the most effective way to stop the spread.”

“Wearing masks has turned out to be very successful at halting the spread of the coronavirus if everyone is on board. It’s an incredibly simple, cheap and effective intervention,” said Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg in the same release. “It works for individuals, but more importantly for communities; wear a mask for the people you want to protect, wear a mask for the businesses you want to see open. Wearing a mask will give you freedom to go more places sooner. Together we can keep ourselves and our economy healthy.”

McLean’s decision came about a week after Ada County was forced back into Stage 3 of reopening, as ordered by Central District Health. The county’s continued high case count, which surged in part because of spread among young adults in bars, has put it in jeopardy of falling back into Stage 2. Bars are now closed, but restaurants, breweries and wineries still can be open, as long as social distancing and other measures are in place.

Ada County reported 107 new confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday. That marked the third straight day Central District Health had reported at least 100 new cases among its four counties. The district reported 109 Wednesday, 102 Tuesday and a whopping 226 Monday (which also included some Sunday cases as the district doesn’t update on Sundays).

Get masks for free on Friday: Residents who do not already have face masks may pick up disposable ones at the City of Boise Mask Giveaway from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at two locations: Boise Depot, 2603 W. Eastover Terrace, and City Hall West, 333 N. Mark Stall Place.

Only drive-up service is available, and city staffers will bring the masks to residents’ cars. There is a limit of six per household.

Other Idaho cities require masks: Moscow became the first city in Idaho to require the use of face masks in public, doing so on Tuesday. Hailey, McCall and Driggs followed this week with orders mandating masks.

Masks required in county buildings: Ada County on Wednesday required people to wear a face coverings at all times while visiting or working in county buildings.