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Hailey Passes Mask Mandate; Other Blaine County Leaders To Vote Tuesday

A hand-written sign in a storefront says "Masks Required. No Cash."
AP Images

In the spring of 2020, the city of Hailey was one of the first places in Idaho to require face coverings. Now it’s reinstating a mask mandate after a unanimous vote Monday evening.

The new mask mandate is in effect for indoor and outdoor public places where distancing is not possible. The city council will revisit the policy in one month.

“This is not a honeymoon period after the vaccine where people can get by doing what they think is right,” said Council Member Sam Linnet.

Part of that, he said, is the reality that a portion of the population is not getting vaccinated or wearing masks.

"We don't have the flexibility in our health care system right now to allow that kind of stuff to happen," Linnet said.

Positive cases in Blaine County have been trending upward since July, along with the rest of the state, though the seven-day-average case rate is among the lowest currently.

Blaine County has the highest vaccination rate in the state; 73% of the county population has gotten at least one dose.

Still, elected officials in several communities there are considering mask mandates again. As Hailey council member Kaz Thea said, the valley is not in a bubble from the rest of Idaho.

“Our people that were sick a year-and-a-half ago got to go to Twin and Boise and other places if they needed it when we were full and maxed out, and our system is one St. Luke’s system,” she said.

Though St. Luke's has a small hospital in Ketchum, it has only admitted a few COVID patients at a time, when needed, and many Wood River Valley patients have been cared for in other hospitals.

St. Luke’s Magic Valley, the hospital in Twin Falls, had a record-high 74 COVID patients this past Sunday.

Ketchum, Sun Valley and Blaine County will consider mask mandates during meetings Tuesday.

Earlier this summer, Boise reinstated a mask mandate that only applies to city buildings. Victor, in Teton County, passed a mask mandate last month.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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