EIPH 9.14

Eastern Idaho Public Health’s Board of Health met Monday to consider mask mandates for Madison and Fremont counties.

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Five eastern Idaho counties are now under mask mandates by regional health officials and, at one time or another, all eight have been.

The latest two counties added to the list were Madison and Fremont, whose mask mandates and light event restrictions were approved in a unanimous vote Monday by Eastern Idaho Public Health's board of county representatives.

The legal health orders are effective immediately. Drafts of the orders are available on the health district's website.

Board members didn't discuss the mandates much at Monday's meeting.

Last Thursday, Madison County's case rate began to eclipse the threshold that triggers mandates. The county's representative on the health board, Brent Mendenhall, asked the board to meet Monday to consider mandates.

“I am in no anxious mode or in any hurry to have an order placed on Madison County, whatsoever," Mendenhall said at Sept. 10's meeting. "But we have seen these orders be effective. And I’m looking out for the welfare of Madison County.”

People who violate the mandates can be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries up to $300 in fines, six months in jail or both. The order says all people must wear masks in public when they can’t social 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, the order says.

For months, the health board has levied this set of restrictions when counties breach thresholds for new cases that put them at so-called moderate-risk level. The votes are in line with a four-tier regional pandemic response plan the board approved in July.

Madison County was the only one of eight counties here that hadn't seen  mandates from the regional health board. The county first breached thresholds for mandates on Friday.

Fremont County's active case rate surpassed the rate of 10 active cases per 10,000 residents, the moderate-risk threshold, on Sept. 10. The county previously had mandates through the health board, but the board lifted the mandates on Aug. 27 when new cases slowed there.

The five eastern Idaho counties currently under the heightened social restrictions are: Bonneville, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson and Madison.

To rise in risk level, a county must breach a metric for three days. For mandates to be lifted, the restrictions must be in place for at least 14 days and, for the last seven days, a county's metrics must fall below the threshold that got them into a higher risk level.

Health board members last Thursday tried to lift mandates on Jefferson, as its rate of new cases seemed to be slowing. Saturday would have marked one week since its active case rate dipped below the moderate-risk threshold. The board voted that if it stayed below the threshold, the mandates would be lifted. Jefferson's rate shot up Friday night, effectively keeping the mandates in place.

The meeting Monday replaces the board's typical Thursday meeting this week. The next planned board meeting is for Sept. 24, but the health board can call special meetings with 24-hour public notice.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.