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Health officials meet with Boise bar owners as downtown coronavirus cluster grows

The bar owners agreed to implement several measures to slow the spread of the virus, including asking customers to wear facemasks.

BOISE, Idaho — Officials from Central District Health met with nearly a dozen downtown Boise bar owners on Thursday, as the city grapples with a growing number of COVID-19 cases connected to the area's busy nightlife.

The health district said in a news release Thursday evening that the goal of the virtual meeting was to discuss ways to slow the spread of the virus, keep people healthy, and keep businesses open.

According to CHD, health officials shared information on the illness cluster that now includes 69 people, many who exposed other members of the public by going to a number of bars and nightclubs while they were infectious.

RELATED: Health officials warn about possible coronavirus exposure at four more bars in Boise and Meridian

Positive cases within a business, regardless of industry, do not indicate wrongdoing on behalf of the business, CDH said, noting that people can become exposed to and transmit the virus to others in any setting.

Among the ideas discussed and agreed to by the owners, according to CDH:

  • Staff will consistently wear face coverings
  • Customers will be asked to wear face coverings
  • Physical distancing and occupancy restrictions will be in place
  • CDH and bar owners will work to educate the public on responsible socializing
  • CDH will offer establishments an on-site technical review of operational plans for increased safety and sanitation

"We recognize that wearing a face covering might not be the preferred thing to do when you're out socializing, but nothing related to this global pandemic, which stands to become very serious in our community, is comfortable or easy," CDH Director Russ Duke said in a statement. "We want to keep people healthy, ensure our hospitals don't become overwhelmed, and keep our businesses open so that they can begin thriving again.

"To do this, we all need to make some sacrifices," Duke added. "Wearing a face covering in public and respecting any guidelines in place by a business are simple, low-or no-cost sacrifices that we can all do today and every day."

CDH and the bar owners agreed to implement the measures as soon as possible. Some of the measures though - such as providing face coverings for customers who do not have one - may take some additional time to put in place, CDH said.

Rocci Johnson, co-owner of Humpin' Hannah's on Main Street, said the goal is to keep everyone healthy and avoid another potentially catastrophic shutdown. She added that a downtown Boise "Mask-er-Rade" party is in the works.

"After three months of a shutdown, the most difficult route would be to face another closure of our vital and important industry," Johnson said in a statement. "As a result of our cooperative efforts with CDH, we'd like remind everyone that since this is a serious problem we all need to collectively address, and as humans we will always be social beings, nobody knows how to put on a party for a cause like we do. So we are looking forward to creating a Downtown Boise "Mask-er-Rade!"

Johnson said more details on the "Mask-er-Rade" would be released in the near future and that the event would include rewards for all patrons wearing masks, including the most creative and mundane.

You can take a closer look at the state's guidance on bars here, and the CDC's guidance here.

RELATED: Bittercreek Alehouse, Red Feather Lounge in downtown Boise close due to coronavirus concerns

RELATED: 'We need to be able to alert people': CDH explains why they name bars when sending out public health warnings

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