Moscow’s face mask requirement goes into effect Thursday

MOSCOW, Idaho — Anyone in the City of Moscow must wear a face mask and stay six feet away from others. That’s the new order from the city’s mayor. The mask requirement goes into effect Thursday.

Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert said he put in the emergency order because of a spike in people testing positive for COVID-19 in Latah County. 20 people there are infected, as of Wednesday night.

In just a matter of hours, anyone in the City of Moscow must wear a face mask, whether that’s in the store or in a restaurant.

“Each individual plays a critical role in keeping the public safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19,” said Peter Mundt, director of community relations for Gritman Medical Center in Moscow.

Gritman Medical is the main health center in Moscow.

“As a critical access hospital, we serve this region. We serve the patients, not only of Moscow, but for all of Latah County and Idaho, and even beyond the borders of the county,” Mundt said.

The hospital has a COVID-19 testing and assessment center outside. So far, it’s collected more than 1,300 tests for Coronavirus.

At Gritman Medical Center, it’s licensed for 25 hospital beds. It has the ability to go into surge capacity, which means it can go beyond 25 beds, if needed.

It has not reached capacity yet during this pandemic. It said the mask order by the city’s mayor is going to help keep it that way.

“We can’t say it enough. We need people to do their part to not overwhelm the health system. Even if we have capacity to take on some additional cases of COVID-positive patients – we still want to have our ability to serve our emergency cases. Car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, baby deliveries,” Mundt said.

The mask order is going to change the way businesses serve the community, and some businesses are already making adjustments.

“Entrepreneurs have to be really flexible in this environment,” said Jenny Ford, executive director for Moscow Chamber of Commerce.

Restaurants, like Bloom in downtown Moscow, now only offer outdoor service.

Next door, La Casa Lopez is also pumping the brakes on in-house dining and only offering takeout until the number of cases go down.

“For the betterment of the rest of our community, especially our vulnerable populations, it’s something at we need to do and elevate and advocate for,” Ford said.

That mask order is in effect starting at midnight Thursday. The order will be in effect for the next week. However, that deadline could be extended by Moscow City Council. It just depends on whether or not the number of people with COVID-19 continues to increase.