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


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MOSCOW (Idaho Statesman)– Moscow became the first city in Idaho to require the use of face masks in public Tuesday. Hailey followed soon after with an order mandating masks.

Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert made face masks mandatory as part of a public health emergency order. It will go into effect Thursday and also requires 6 feet of physical distancing inside city limits.

Lambert cited Idaho’s surge in new COVID-19 cases as the reason for the requirement in a press release. The state has added 40% of its new confirmed cases in the past seven days. It set a record with 472 new cases Monday, then followed it with 289 cases Tuesday, the second-most in a single day.

Latah County, home to Moscow, has also watched its cases double from eight to 16 in the past nine days.

“In light of current cases and a trend towards a significant resurgence of COVID-19 infections and exposure in Moscow, it is prudent to assess the public health risks to the community as a whole,” Lambert said in a news release.

On Tuesday night, the Hailey City Council passed an emergency order requiring people to “cover their nose and mouth, when members of the public are physically present for otherwise unprotected social interaction,” according to the order. The council unanimously voted to approve the emergency order, according to the Idaho Mountain Express.

The order does allow for some exceptions. For example, those in restaurants or other eateries who are 6 feet away from others do not need to wear masks. Anyone found in violation of the order could potentially face a $100 fine.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little held the state in Stage 4 of Idaho’s reopening plan last week amid the surge in new coronavirus cases. But he has repeatedly declined to join the growing list of states that require face masks in public.

As of Tuesday evening, 18 states require the public to wear face masks in one form or another, including neighboring Oregon and Nevada, according to CNN. Nevada requires a mask in any public space. Oregon requires a mask in all indoor public spaces.

“I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement Monday. “If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face-covering when out in public.”

Idaho has instead encouraged the use of masks. It started a social media campaign, #MaskUpIdaho, last week to help convince citizens to use face masks. Central District Health has considered requiring masks, while Boise Mayor Lauren McLean hasn’t ruled it out. But neither has committed to it.

Moscow is home to the University of Idaho. It was not immediately evident how the city’s order would affect the Vandals’ plan to reopen their campus in August for the fall semester.

Reporter Jacob Scholl contributed to this article.