A mandate to wear face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 went into effect Thursday morning in Custer County. Lemhi County had been under the same rule for several weeks, but those restrictions were lifted Aug. 31.
Eastern Idaho Public Health's board members adopted and immediately implemented the order at their Thursday meeting after moving Custer County into the moderate risk category.
Custer County Commissioner Wayne Butts, who is a member of the health district board, abstained from the vote. He did not say why.
"It just seems like they don't really care. I think the mentality is herd immunity is what it's going to take, just like they do with the livestock," Butts said before the vote. "I think the ones in our community that are wearing masks are the ones that are gonna wear masks. I don't think that even with an order, you're gonna get any new ones wearing masks, which could be unfortunate. We all want to see our schools stay open but it seems we don't want to practice safe distancing and things that allow us to do that."
When counties reach the moderate risk level, the health board mandates masks and restricts events. The mandates apply to schools. After the mandates are in place for two weeks, the board's plan says it can lift the mandates if the county has been below the moderate risk threshold for the last week.
Custer County exceeded the health district's established threshold of 15 active cases per 10,000 residents for three consecutive days by Thursday which triggered the advancement on the risk level chart. The Census Bureau reports 4,315 residents of Custer County. Three more cases of the virus were confirmed in Custer County Thursday, bringing the county's total to 42, following four confirmed cases Wednesday. Fourteen of the cases were listed as active Thursday evening.
Lemhi County's tally increased this week as well, to 72 total cases, with 5 listed as active. It was bumped back down to the minimal risk category because of the number of active cases. Butte County is now at 27 confirmed cases. Butte County is in the high risk category, following action by the county commission and the Southeastern Idaho Public Health District to advance to that category.
Across Idaho, 39,927 cases of coronavirus are confirmed and 372 people had died from coronavirus by Thursday evening, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Mackay schools moved to remote learning last week because of an outbreak in the district. Superintendent Susan Buescher said Mackay will resume in-person classes when Custer County returns to the minimal risk level.
Challis schools will require masks in the classroom when students return from the Labor Day break on Sept. 8.
The order in effect in Custer County says everyone must wear masks in public when they can't physically distance from people they don't live with. The health order also restricts attendance at public events. Events must allow 28 square feet for every attendee. People who violate the mandate face up to $300 in fines and six months in jail.
The full order can be viewed at https://eiph.idaho.gov/Home/Hot%20Topics/Coronavirus/Orders/EIPH%20Order%20of%20Restriction_Custer_Final_9-03-20.pdf.
The health district order requires that cities in Custer County and the county post the order on their websites and in their buildings. By Thursday evening the order was posted only on the county's website, but not the two cities which have websites.