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City of Hailey Asks to Dismiss Anti-Mask Lawsuit
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Thursday, October 21, 2021
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTO BY JOY PRUDEK

The City of Hailey has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the city by the Health Freedom Defense Fund.

The Health Freedom Defense Fund, a national nonprofit, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Sandpoint on Sept. 26, alleging the city violated international, federal and state law by mandating masks. The Fund maintains the use of face masks is experimental and that the mandate is “a human experiment forced on citizens.”

Hailey City Attorney Deborah Ferguson said in her motion that state law allows cities to pass regulations to protect public health. She also noted that none of the five Blaine County residents named in the lawsuit claim to have been cited for violating mask rules. She further said that they can’t show they’ve been harmed by the mask mandate. And she noted that the mask mandate includes exemptions.

Hailey City Council voted to reinstate the mask mandate on Sept. 13, three days before the state of Idaho enacted crisis standards of care for hospitals across the stage because of a surge of COVID cases caused by the Delta variant.

The mandate requires facemasks to be worn in grocery stores, government offices, medical facilities, and other indoor public places within the city, as well as on public transportation, including taxi cabs and ridesharing vehicles.

The mandate exempts children under age 5, those who can’t medically tolerate cloth face coverings, those who are hearing-impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing-impaired, on-duty law enforcement officers, persons engaged in athletic competition, those eating or drinking at a restaurant as long as they’re able to be six feet from those who are not members of their parties and people who are obtaining a service involving the nose, face or head.

People are also permitted to go without face coverings when in outdoor places where they can maintain social distancing.

The cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum, Bellevue and Blaine County commissioners also have enacted mask mandates.

The county has lost five residents to COVID in the past month—the latest, a man in his 50s who was vaccinated in February but had underlying health problems. Three others involved unvaccinated  individuals—one as young as 40, according to South Central Public Health Department. The other involved a woman in her 80s who had been vaccinated but had underlying health conditions.

Age and preexisting conditions seem to be the key factors in someone getting a breakthrough COVID-19 case, Dr. Christine Hahn, Idaho's state epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week.

To date, 24 Blaine County residents have officially died from COVID, according to Idaho's COVID dashboard.

A WalletHub survey this week ranked Idaho at the bottom of all 50 states and the District Columbia, citing its low vaccination rate and high hospitalization and death rate.

Leslie Manookian, president and founder of the Health Freedom Defense Fund, said there was zero surprise that the city had asked to dismiss the lawsuit—that’s what any good lawyer would do, she said.

“If we were on the other side, it’s something we would do," she said.

She said, however, that the lawsuit would not be dismissed because the legal issues have yet to be resolved.

Manookian added that while surgical masks may be effective in blocking large particle droplets, they are not protective against smaller airborne particulates. She added that the chance of catching COVID from a passing interaction is minimal.


 

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