Editor's note: This story has been updated with information about the signs in support of the order.
BOISE — Central District Health will meet at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday to potentially vote on a revised public health order, after delaying the vote last week.
The revised order, released Saturday, would allow sports and visits to long-term care facilities to continue in all four of the health district’s counties: Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley. Attendance at sporting events would be capped to 10 people, and masks and social distancing would be required.
As with the original draft, violations of the order would be punishable by a misdemeanor, which includes a fine, imprisonment or both; and visits to jails and prisons would be prohibited.
The order would enact a mask mandate in all four counties; currently only two of the district’s counties, Ada and Valley, are under a mask mandate.
The draft order does not restrict educational activities involving students being taught by a teacher in a school or a similar setting, nor does it stop gatherings of 10 or more people for political expression or religious gatherings for the purpose of worship. In schools, face masks would be required at all times unless an educator is in a private office or instructing students with 10 feet of space in between.
The draft order would also impact businesses in all four counties:
- Gyms, fitness and group exercises would be required to limit capacity to 50% and require 6 feet of social distancing
- Dance floors and bar tops would be closed
- When possible, businesses would need to implement delivery or curbside services
OPPOSITION AND SUPPORT
A letter from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and signed by 17 other elected Idaho Republicans was submitted to Central District Health Monday against the proposed order, saying it would burden Idaho businesses and “impose severe mandates on individuals.”
The officials oppose mask mandates, requirements for businesses to enforce COVID-19 regulations, and the potential misdemeanor punishment for violations. And while gatherings for religious worship would not have attendance limits under the new order, the letter expresses concern about possible attendance limits for religious activities not deemed worship services.
This is the second letter McGeachin has sent to the Central District Health board about the order. By weighing in against a health district’s attempts to respond to the virus, McGeachin’s letter appears to go against Gov. Brad Little’s “local control” emphasis that has placed much of the COVID-19 public health response onto Idaho’s seven health districts and local governments.
Hundreds of health district residents are organizing a "remote rally" to show support for the public health order. They're placing more than 300 homemade yard signs outside district headquarters on Tuesday to urge the board to adopt basic health measures in all four counties, according to organizer Nathaniel Hoffman.
“We chose to exercise our First Amendment rights in a safe, peaceful, and socially distant manner, in the spirit of this proposed health order," Hoffman said in a statement.
The signs will be removed after the meeting adjourns. They include:
- “Respect nurses & doctors—wear a mask!” — Linda, Valley County
- “Kids Need School: Mask up Idaho!” — Krista, Ada County
- “Mascarillas: Todos Somos Luchadores” — Rosseli, Ada County
“I’ve had multiple patients who watch their grandkids after school, and they’re gonna catch it,” Gwen Hernandez, a home health RN case manager who has had six patients die this year from COVID, said in a statement. “We have to start listening to medical experts, wearing our masks, and helping each other out if we are going to get through this.”
A letter with 600 signatories was submitted to Central District Health commissioners supported the draft measure.
Tuesday’s meeting will have seating for five guests wearing masks in the Syringa Conference Room and another six guests in the White Pine Conference Room at 707 N. Armstrong Place in Boise. Those wanting to watch online can do so on the Central District Health YouTube page.
Central District Health accepted online comments until 5:15 p.m. Monday through its email, firstname.lastname@example.org.