One woman said it is time to stop being afraid, and a high school student asked how long this nonsense is going to go on. Other residents thanked Moscow officials for following science.

After a long public comment session at Monday’s Moscow City Council meeting, the council unanimously decided to extend its face mask order until Oct. 6. The public health emergency order requires face coverings to be worn in public settings where 6-foot social distancing cannot be maintained with non-household members.

“Social distancing and wearing face coverings are two of the most agreed upon means that we have to slow the rate of the spread of this virus,” Councilor Brandy Sullivan said.

The order, which has been in effect since July 2, was set to expire today. Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert initially issued the order because of significant increases in coronavirus cases and escalating exposure concerns.

There are 83 confirmed and eight probable cases in Latah County, according to Public Health-Idaho North Central District.

The order does not apply to certain individuals, including those with a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.

About 15 people stood with signs outside Moscow City Hall before Monday’s meeting apparently in opposition of face masks. One sign said, “Science does not support masking healthy people” and another read, “Unmask Moscow, unmask our children.”

Some residents told the mayor and council that the order infringed on their rights, negatively affected people’s mental health, recovery rates from the virus are high and no one has died from the virus in Latah County.

Lambert and council members said they received hundreds of emails regarding the order and the vast majority were in favor of residents continuing to wear masks.

In other business, the council:

Approved the $96.1 million fiscal 2021 budget and the fiscal 2021 fee resolution, which both start Oct. 1. The budget is about $5.4 million less than the current one the council approved last year because of negative effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget has no increases in: property taxes other than new construction activity; sewer rates; sanitation rates; and the anticipated stormwater utility fee will be delayed until at least fiscal year 2022. Water rates will increase 5 percent for residential and commercial users. The city’s property tax levy will be $5.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which City Supervisor Gary Riedner said is below the $6.93 average city levy in Idaho.

Non-personnel related operation budgets will be reduced by 10 percent from the current fiscal budget level.

Employee salaries will be frozen at the fiscal 2020 level and no new full-time personnel requests will be approved, except filling vacant positions as needed or supporting reorganizations that would result in more efficient operations.

Provided direction to city staff to not allow live entertainment in the temporary expanded sidewalk cafes on Main Street because the council felt social distancing could not be maintained. The city has fielded several requests for live entertainment, especially live music, in the expanded sidewalk cafes.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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