Number of coronavirus cases linked to Boise bars doubles, officials say

Idaho health officials this week announced that the number of coronavirus cases linked to bars in downtown Boise doubled this week, increasing from 34 confirmed cases on Tuesday to 69 on Thursday.

Earlier this month, officials with Idaho’s Central District Health (CDH) announced that they were investigating a cluster of COVID-19 cases involving about 10 people who visited “multiple bars” in downtown Boise while infectious on June 5 and June 6.

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At least 69 cases related to the initial cluster have since been confirmed, officials said in a news release on Thursday when announcing they held a virtual meeting with at least 10 bar owners in downtown Boise “to discuss the recent COVID-19 illness cluster and ways to slow the spread of the virus to keep businesses open and our community healthy.”

“CDH and bar owners discussed the gravity of this illness cluster and its potential to impact a broader, more vulnerable population of our community, reviewed operational guidance for bars created by the State, and discussed ideas on how to slow the spread and work toward a solution that keeps people healthy and businesses open,” officials added.

Some of the ideas that health officials and bar owners agreed to included having bar employees “consistently” wear a face covering, while customers will also be asked to wear one. Social distancing and occupancy restrictions will also be better enforced.

“After three months of a shutdown, the most difficult route would be to face another closure of our vital and important industry,” said Rocci Johnson, co-owner of Humpin’ Hannah’s, in a statement.

“After three months of a shutdown, the most difficult route would be to face another closure of our vital and important industry,” said Rocci Johnson, co-owner of Humpin’ Hannah’s, in a statement. (iStock)

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“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,” said Russ Duke, CDH district director, 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. 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,” he added.

The news of the bar-linked coronavirus outbreak in Boise, as well as a similar occurrence in Florida, has prompted officials in other states to reconsider the slated reopenings of bars over concerns that such establishments could be hotspots for the novel virus.

In Maine, for instance, Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the state’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned this week that officials are reevaluating the July 1 reopening date for bars in the Pine Tree State.

"As always, we let the data, not the date, drive what we feel is best in order to protect public health and we will do so here in connection with bars," Shah said during a daily news briefing on Wednesday.

Such reports have reportedly prompted officials in Vermont and Massachusetts to reevaluate the timeline for when bars can reopen in their respective states as well.

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One bar owner in Boise warned customers and bar owners to remain diligent to avoid another shutdown.

“After three months of a shutdown, the most difficult route would be to face another closure of our vital and important industry,” said Rocci Johnson, co-owner of Humpin’ Hannah’s, in a statement.