The City of Driggs Mayor Hyrum Johnson passed a “mayoral emergency” ordinance on Thursday July 2 requiring masks to be worn in public and in local businesses. Johnson told the Teton Valley News that the decision was made to “empower” local businesses.
”We’re not sending out the police,” said Johnson of the new ordinance that is anticipated to be ratified by the Driggs council next week. “We’re trying to empower businesses to have the backing of the city behind them.”
Driggs businesses have city citations working in their favor said Johnson. A person unwilling to follow the rules can be cited under the city ordinance for trespassing if they refuse to comply with wearing a mask up to a $100 city fine. This citation does not come from the Sheriff’s Office, but from the city.
”I think this is so awesome,” said Corner Drug co-owner and pharmacist Sally Myler on Thursday of the mandatory mask ordinance. “I think it’s a good idea. These are ways we can avoid another shut down with the numbers increasing. It makes me more comfortable with my employees on the front lines,” she said of adding additional protection to staff.
Broulim’s in Driggs has some of the largest volume of customers. Johnson said he did not consult with Broulim’s corporate before enacting the ordinance. Broulim’s manager Brad Bishoff referred the Teton Valley News to the corporate office for comment. He did say the sign regarding the new ordinance was posted at the Driggs store. The corporate office did not immediately return a call for comment.
With three new COVID-19 cases being reported on Wednesday, July 1 in Teton County, the City of Victor will also consider a similar ordinance this Wednesday.
Victor Mayor Will Frohlich said he is placing a proposed emergency ordinance on the Wednesday, July 8 meeting agenda to be debated by city council.
This would follow two other Idaho cities who recently enacted a similar order. Boise Public Radio reported Wednesday that the cities of Hailey and Moscow, Idaho made mask wearing mandatory. According to the Jackson Hole News and Guide, Teton County, Wyoming is looking to instate a similar mask requirement. Eastern Idaho Public Health has debated the same requirement this week. The Boise mayor ordered the western city to wear mandatory masks this week as well.
The Centers for Disease Control, “recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
“We’ve seen a significant uptick in cases and rate of spread both locally, regionally, as well as nationally,” said Johnson to the Teton Valley News on Wednesday evening. “People aren’t taking responsibility and acting sensibly. If our community continues to act as it has been for the last month we’ll shut down, which would be devastating to our businesses. Combine that with the high travel rates, even higher that last year and finally it is strongly recommended by the CDC, Eastern Idaho Public Health and our local health professionals.”
State officials added 398 new confirmed cases to Idaho’s coronavirus tally last Friday, breaking a single-day record that was set earlier this week when 341 new cases were confirmed last Tuesday. That followed triple-digit increases in cases every day since June 22. So far, 93 Idahoans have died from COVID-19; 558 health care workers have been infected; and 355 Idahoans have been hospitalized for the virus.
Teton County has realized a sharp increase in the last two weeks logging 13 new cases in the last two and half weeks.
While Frohlich is not making a move with a “mayoral emergency” decision, he is placing an emergency ordinance before the Victor City Council next Wednesday.
“It’s the easiest the thing to put in place to slow this down and the science is there,” said Frohlich of the ordinance to require masks. “Putting this in front of the council and debating this is a good move. It’s one of the easiest things we can do because we’re running out of tools in the tool kit.”
Fröhlich noted that Teton Valley is full of visitors this time of year, more so around this time. His hope to run a robust educational campaign to get visitors to wear face coverings while they are visiting Victor.
“I’ve seen public gatherings which are completely irresponsible,” added Johnson. “People crammed together on bleachers at the city park without mask. People talking in Broulim’s without masks, and no social distancing.”
Myler added, “Even if you don’t believe it, how hard is it to wear a mask? It will be tough to enforce because of the way people are thinking right now, but what’s 10 minutes of wearing a mask in a store?”
On Thursday, July 2, Dr. Erin Prissel and Dr. Nathan Levanger with Teton Valley Health issued a joint statement.
“We are currently in Stage 4 of Idaho Rebounds. In Idaho and in Teton County, we have seen a surge of cases in the past 10 days. The lack of social distancing and mask use are the primary drivers of those increased cases. The best way to prevent COVID cases are items that each person can control:
n Maintain at least six-foot physical distancing from other individuals whenever possible;
n Wash hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or use hand sanitizer;
n Cover coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands);
n Regularly clean high-touch surfaces and do not shake hands;
n Stay home if sick; and
n Wear face coverings while in public, especially when six-foot distancing is not always possible (e.g., inside businesses).
“We need everyone to help each other – even if you are not worried about getting COVID, please think of others who are at risk. Please think before you attend large events to ensure you can socially distance and, if you do attend, please wear a face covering. We are here to take care of you, but we need your help to care for the community.”