Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Hailey Tightens Restrictions on Outdoor Gatherings, Loosens Restriction on Businesses
St. Luke’s Wood River is not scheduling new elective surgeries requiring overnight stays through Christmas to free beds and staff to deal with COVID patients, as needed.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020



The months’ old argument between lives and livelihood took front and center Monday night as the Hailey City Council considered tightening COVID restrictions to stem the Wood River Valley’s rise in COVID infections in the face of dwindling hospital resources.

“The numbers are projected to double in a couple weeks and triple by Christmas if we do nothing more,” said Council Member Sam Linnet. “Health care workers are frustrated and burnt out. It’s going to get worse if we don’t do more.”

Blaine County gained 31 new cases on Tuesday for a total of 1,237.

But Council Member Juan Martinez pushed back on tightening restrictions, saying a shutdown would put him out of business. And Council Member Kaz Thea said she believed a business or school closure would do more harm than good, adding that she does not believe spread has come from business or schools.

“I don’t think closures are going to be our answer to freeing up beds in the hospital,” she said, adding that she would be in favor of tightening restrictions on the number of people in places of worship.

Blaine County has been in the critical zone on the Harvard Global Health scale for weeks, recording up to three dozen new infections some days.

In Blaine County 63.83 percent of those who have contracted COVID-19 since Nov. 1 reported getting it from a household member, a friend or a family member, Brianna Bodily, public information officer for South Central Public Health District, told The Eye on Tuesday. Just over 20 percent reported getting it in the workplace.

Idaho recorded, 1640 new cases of the virus on Tuesday for a total of 94,730. Twin Falls County, however, has shown improvement recently. Eight more Idahoans have died, raising the death toll to 874.

“Please keep in mind this is self-reporting,” she added. “Some people refuse to answer the questions and, of course, some people we don't ever reach because we have too many cases to make contact with everyone.”

 The Council held the discussion Monday night to consider amendments to Hailey’s existing Health Order 2020-07 in light of the governor’s new Modified Stage 2 Health Order, which limits outdoor gatherings to 10 and requires those in restaurants and bars to be seated.

 The Council had four options on the table ranging from doing nothing to enforcing its current order, citing and closing businesses that do not comply with the city’s current mask mandate or size limitations.

  It also had the option of closing gyms or limiting gym capacity to 10 percent, closing indoor dining and  indoor events, capping indoor religious gatherings at 25 percent and issuing travel advisories and quarantine mandates.

Fear of a lockdown, which Mayor Martha Burke said were unwarranted, prompted nearly 50 people to offer comments via zoom and in-person. Many trumpeted arguments that scientists have been debunking for months, including the idea that masks cause health problems.

A couple speakers urged the council to throw out masks in favor of herbs and meditation to build the immune system. Brittany Shipley of NAMI had to correct a couple assertions that suicide had ballooned during the pandemic. That has not happened in Blaine County or Idaho, she said, although there is more demand for counseling.

A couple speakers accused Mayor Martha Burke of being a Communist.

“You’re taking away what our forefathers fought for,” one said. “God will hold you responsible.”

“For you to make any kind of mandate is outside the rule of law…as it would be for me as a person to order you to behave in a particular way,” said another. “I am for all citizens to resist and not comply. Your law has no authority.”

Eric Parker, just off his legislative campaign, weighed in, as well: “Are you guys ready for Ammon Bundy to be out here in the front of the building with 500 people?” he said, even as 30 people involved with Bundy People’s Rights group protested Boise’s new COVID restrictions outside Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s home.

“The fear mongering has to stop. I’m looking at the data and am not seeing a huge amount of COVID cases,” said Sylvie Dore.

After a couple people questioned St. Luke’s transparency, a doctor said that most of what she had heard that night was not true.

“Our local hospital is absolutely overwhelmed with COVID patients; our clinics are overwhelmed,” she said. “Which means, if you get appendicitis and go to the hospital, there’s not a bed for you or you have to be transferred out.”

Rob Cronin pleaded with the council not to take Zou 75 back to take-out only.

Limiting capacity had already cut his revenues by half, Cronin said. Cronin added that between 30 percent and 40 percent of Zou 75’s gross revenues come from alcohol sales, which it would lose if forced to go to takeout only.

“Driving a car is more dangerous than getting COVID,” he said.

Kevin Jones of the Sawtooth Brewery said the shutdown in spring posed a hardship to his 45 employees: “I don’t understand why businesses in Hailey should be shut down when others aren’t.”

Holly Smith said she opened her hair salon in August and was grateful to have her rent forgiven during lockdown: “If we’re shut down, we won’t be able to keep our doors open without help as we’ve already used our paycheck protection.”

After two hours of comments, Burke turned to the City Council.

Thea noted that implementing a stay-at-home order might contain the virus for a while but that it would spike back up later. “I know the health officials are screaming at us to do something, but we will not be able to prevent all illness,” she said.

Thea said she favored compliance, including wearing masks, sanitizing and staying home if you’re sick: “I  hope that if you really can’t wear a mask you think twice about entering a grocery store out of respect for others and have someone else go for you.”

Linnet responded that sheltering in place during March and April “sucked and was terrible but it worked.”

“While we heard  tonight from maybe 50 people who don’t believe in science, we represent over 8,000 people. I don’t want… to create compromise that hurts the rest of the people in our community,” he said. “We can’t not act because some don’t like wearing masks or some believe COVID is a hoax. We have to do what’s best for Hailey. Otherwise, in three to four weeks we’ll be back here and people won’t be getting care at the hospital.”

At issue is people’s livelihoods and lives, he added.

“I hear what medical experts are saying and I hear what businesses are saying. I would tend to choose people’s lives over their livelihood. If we prolong, health outcomes will worsen and we will have to shut things down more.”

Burke said she, too, was frustrated by the division in the community and the failure of people to respect others’ point of view. But, she said, people can choose to walk out of a restaurant if it’s crowded or if people are not wearing masks.

And, in the end, the Council voted 3-1, with Linnet casting the nay vote, to replace its former public health order with a new one more in line with the governor’s order.

Under the new Emergency Health Order 2020-08:

Hailey retains its mask mandate, requiring face coverings any time a person enters a public indoor space and in outdoor spaces where six feet of physical distance can’t be maintained.

Businesses will, however, now be allowed to operate without limitation on the number of people within the space, providing six feet of distancing and proper sanitizing is utilized.

Gatherings, both public and private, will be restricted to no more than 10 people, unless those people reside together in a single household.

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people, rather than 50 as before. Violations constitute a misdemeanor

To learn more, visit https://www.haileycityhall.org.


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