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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean: Untangling The Hair Salon Debate And More COVID-19 Decisions

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Lauren McLean
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In a wide-ranging interview surrounding the many challenges of rebooting the economy in the shadow of  COVID-19, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said she had the opportunity to talk with 200 local salon owners and employees to set the record straight on what needs to happen to reopen sooner rather than later.

In her conversation with Morning Edition host George Prentice McLean also clarified the distinction between the city's plan to reopen commercial establishments versus Governor Brad Little's statewide four-phase plan.

“I tried to make clear to salon owners that the virus is setting the actual final decision.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. There is always plenty to talk about when we have the chance to spend some time with Boise mayor, Lauren McLean. And this is one of those moments. The mayor joins us live via Zoom this morning. Madam Mayor, good morning.

LAUREN MCLEAN: Good morning, George. It's great to be back. Thanks for having me.

PRENTICE: I thought we could start our conversation addressing something that I have heard anecdotally, and that is some amount of confusion or lack of detail in differentiating the city's reopening plan and the state's reopening plan. Can you break that down to us as laypeople?

MCLEAN: Yeah, I really appreciate the question because we've tried to communicate where we're aligned and where we have additional requirements and it has been tough. I appreciate this opportunity. First off, I want to say that we have a public health order that's in effect until the end of the month or, and this or is very important, the state releases data that moves us to the next phase. In the very last clause of our order, we say it'll expire on a date or when we move to another phase, which would be phase two. We're as aligned with the state as we can be, recognizing that because we're the most density with an airport, convention centers, lots of facilities, there are some additional public health and safety measures we needed to take.

While we took the governor's phase one recommendations, we are requiring that people physically distance. And we've said that you cannot gather in groups, any size group. And so where the state had suggestions, we have said for our city, it's important that we require those. And this week we expect that the state and the central health district will release data that shows whether or not we've met the parameters to move to stage two. And if we do meet those parameters, then the current order will expire and we'll move into a new order that'll again, look at how we can require safety measures that the state is suggesting.

PRENTICE: When we hear about hair salons inside the city limits who are a little confused about whether they should take appointments or not versus their counterparts outside the city, is it a matter of, I want to make sure I heard you right. Is it a matter of them waiting to hear from you that indeed we have met certain thresholds and then we move forward?

MCLEAN: There's a couple of things on that. I had a great call with about 200 hair salon owners and employees yesterday, where I tried to clarify our intention, because this is all a game of waiting. The city's waiting for the governor, who was waiting for the data to be presented to him, to determine when we can move to stage two. The state said that they would look at data on or around May 15th, then something could change or might not change if we don't meet the parameters. And so our city has said, "We know that we need to require physical distancing at this time. And we will, when we get the data from the state, while we're waiting for the governor to make a determination, then we'll change ours."

And so yesterday I tried to make clear to salon owners that the virus is setting the actual final decision. And if we haven't seen the spread, we haven't seen the increased visits to the emergency rooms, we're going to follow the lead of the governor and advance to phase two. And the precautions that in our city, we believe are important when we move into phase two will be requirements around the protocols that the governor just released last week for different types of businesses, including close contact services.

PRENTICE: Hair salons are in phase two, yes?

MCLEAN: They are listed, they're called out by the governor in phase two, yes. And he provided protocols for their operations last week.

PRENTICE: So, we will expect some kind of news, whether it's a go or no go by the end of this week?

MCLEAN: Yes. And, everybody wishes it would come sooner, myself included. I'm sure the governor as well. We are waiting to see the steps that he takes because he has the Rebound Idaho plan that has detailed the phases, and he has the data. And then we will follow his lead taking precautions in Boise. And I let the salons know that that would be, that we would be requiring that suggested protocols be followed to operate. Because at the end of the day, we want to open safely. We want to protect public health because we don't want to see a relapse if at all possible, because our economy's got to move forward. And we do that best by taking things slow and making sure that when we open, we do it safely so we don't have to close again.

PRENTICE: I don't want to bury the lead in that the vast majority of our neighbors are respecting the science and respecting the health of others and they're social distancing and following the guidelines. That said, there is some behavior that is just quite frankly, knucklehead behavior. But then there are those who are flagrantly putting the health of others at risk. As the chief executive of the city, where's the enforcement for that?

MCLEAN: I want to first off say that I truly appreciate and agree with you that the vast majority of people in our city have done the best they can to follow our requests and orders, because they care about the health of their families and their neighbors and their community, and recognize that taking the steps that we take will get us back to being able to open our city and come back together in the long run in safe ways.

As the chief executive of the city, working with city council and our city departments, we've been clear that we want to protect public health. And we believe that by doing that, we will recover from this more quickly and in more resilient ways. We've gotten lots of calls about people at parks and other places. And we've increased the number of people that we have riding bikes along the Greenbelt and into parks to talk with people who aren't distancing enough, but at the end of the day, you're right. There are people out there that are just outright refusing and we're doing our best to educate first. And every time we walked into a restaurant or an establishment where we've had to had a conversation with them, I'm astounded after talking with our city employees at the reaction that retailers and restaurateurs and others have. They want to do right by our community.

And then if push comes to shove, if we get to a point, especially where if this gets serious again with a surge, we are fully prepared to take action, if we must. I think that we've all seen in this community more often than not, people want to comply when spoken with, and that's the approach we've taken. Unfortunately this has become in many ways, nationally political. The virus doesn't differentiate by political party. It doesn't differentiate by any other philosophy somebody might have, but it can be stopped by people keeping distance so that you're not breathing close to people. And by people wearing masks. And businesses across this community are requiring their employees to wear masks and starting to ask customers to wear masks. And I believe that as a mayor of the city, I should be wearing a mask as well. And I have it draped around my chin when I'm running. And I have it on when I'm biking. And in city hall, we have required that employees wear masks at all times, unless they're alone in their private office.

PRENTICE: Well, that's a great place to leave it then today. With so much news coming on any given day, we appreciate some of your time. Boise mayor Lauren McLean, stay safe, stay well. We'll talk to you soon.

MCLEAN: Thanks George. You take care. Be well too.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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