BOISE, Idaho — The Central District Board of Health voted at its meeting Tuesday afternoon to implement additional precautionary measures for Ada and Valley counties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The board voted 5 to 2 to require everyone in Valley County to wear face masks in indoor and outdoor public places when social distancing cannot be maintained.
The order mirrors the mask mandate already in effect in Ada County. The draft order for Valley County can be viewed here.
Board member and Valley County Commissioner Elting Hasbrouck noted the thousands of people who travel to Valley County each weekend from Ada and Canyon counties, which have consistently had the most COVID-19 cases over the last few months.
"We are kind of the playground for the two hottest spots in the state right now," Hasbrouck said.
He also voiced concerns about overloading the hospital system in Valley County, a concern that was echoed by board member and Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo, who said all COVID-19 patients in Valley County are already being sent to hospitals in Ada County.
The two dissenting votes came from Rep. Megan Blanksma, a board member from Elmore County, and Boise County Commissioner Ryan Stirm.
As for the additional restriction for Ada County, gatherings there are now limited to groups of 10 people unless social distancing can be maintained.
The county is currently in Stage 3 of reopening, which limits gatherings to groups of 50 or less. The board's vote on Tuesday modifies that order to lower the gathering limit to 10.
CDH found through a series of case investigations that social gatherings like barbeques and weddings are, and continue to be, significant methods of transmission of COVID-19.
During the discussion on the gathering limit, CDH Director Russ Duke said much of the community spread of the coronavirus in Ada County has been attributed to social gatherings and workplaces, and that reducing group sizes "would be a good step" in slowing the spread of the virus.
"I think it will have a positive impact on driving the cases down to a more acceptable level," Duke said. "Possibly over time, we'll be able to relax the orders. That's the goal."
Board member Dr. Ted Epperly, who proposed the measure, pointed out that limiting social interactions is an unsavory, but necessary, move.
"We're at a critical moment here, and I think the challenge we're all facing, is we don't want to actively limit people's abilities in this environment to get together and to enjoy each other," Epperly said. "That's what's so painful about this. None of us is in favor of mandates, none of us wants to control people and their behaviors.
"If we decrease the COVID-19 burden in our community, all of us will get back to more normal life faster than by continuing to kick the can down the road," he added.
The board had initially planned to discuss the possibility of closing gyms in Ada County, but last week opted to remove that agenda item after gyms were not "found to be a significant source of transmission to date."
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