Boise City Council backed Mayor Lauren McLean’s public health order and enforcement measures.
During Tuesday’s meeting, all six members of the city council voted to approve McLean’s moves to tighten restrictions and provide city resources toward enforcing compliance for the first time since the pandemic began. Under the changes, which took effect November 23, if a business owner has a customer not following public health guidelines they can call Boise Police for a response.
Residents and visitors can also file complaints against businesses not following the health orders with the Boise City Clerk’s Office. The city will give businesses with complaints filed against them educational materials on the current public health orders and information about potential further consequences. If there is a “clear and immediate threat,” to the health and welfare of the public, the city may suspend or eventually revoke its business license.
‘Patriotic duty’ to wear a mask
City Council Member Patrick Bageant spoke in strong support of McLean’s actions throughout the pandemic, as well as the newest order.
“Our mayor takes a lot of heat and is in a really tough spot with these decisions, which are big,” he said. “She takes them very seriously and I know she tries very hard to balance all of the interests and make the right call.”
Some businesses have been inspected after complaints, but so far there have been no business license suspensions. For the first two days of the enforcement, the city received 31 “actionable complaints” Monday and 24 on Tuesday. There were no citations or arrests for noncompliance issued.
City Council Member TJ Thomson said working to slow the spread of COVID-19 with enforcement is not unusual. He said localities across the country have taken similar actions during the pandemic.
“I firmly believe it’s our patriotic duty to uphold the guidelines, wear a mask and socially distance,” he said. “This practice of enforcing (health orders) to some degree is not uncommon.”
Council member urges tolerance
Some residents who say they cannot wear masks for medical reasons have strongly opposed the mask mandate and enforcement orders. City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings voted in favor of the order, but she asked Boiseans not to judge people for not wearing masks because they have private reasons for not doing so.
She also encouraged people who cannot wear masks to use alternative ways to shop at businesses, like curbside pickup or home delivery.
“If you are in public and see someone not wearing a mask, don’t give them grief,” Woodings said. “You don’t know what their experience is and why they’re not wearing a mask.”
City Council Member Lisa Sanchez supported McLean’s order, but was concerned about the employees at businesses not complying with health orders. She said the city should try and find a solution for those who do not feel safe at work but cannot leave their jobs because of the income.
“What about those individuals that are choosing between that paycheck and every day for 8 hours a day of putting themselves in harm’s way?” she said.