Southeastern Idaho Public Health officials confirmed 11 new COVID-19 cases within their region on Friday and warned that customers of two Pocatello bars may have been exposed to the virus.
The department said in a Friday night news release an employee of Pub New Harmony, 134 Warren Ave., who was also a customer at Hooligan's, 122 N. 3rd Ave., has tested positive.
Statewide, Idaho set yet another record for new confirmed COVID-19 cases in a single day on Friday with 401 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 6,994 confirmed cases and 593 probable cases.
The department advises anyone who was in Pub New Harmony on June 26, June 28 or June 29 and anyone who was in Hooligan's on June 26 to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, headache or loss of taste and smell.
Maggie Mann, Southeastern Idaho Public Health district director, said the risk of transmission is considered small but not zero.
“Exposure in a bar is more than casual contact like you would have at a grocery or convenience store," Mann said in the press release. "Because of the nature of the contact, we believe it is important to notify the public."
Mann added that both businesses have cooperated fully.
The owners of both bars said they've taken several precautions to minimize the risk of transmission.
Waltraud Winterfeld, owner of Pub New Harmony, said she's been using disposable plastic drink and shot glasses. Until recently, she was serving bottled beer only. Furthermore, she's expanded tables on her patio to accommodate more guests outside.
Her staff members have their temperatures taken with a no-touch thermometer prior to shifts.
"We did every precaution that we could think of: sanitizing, going to plastic cups, trying to do the social distancing, hand sanitizers set up in the bar, automatic soap dispensers, automatic towel dispensers," Winterfeld said. "We put out money to try to do our very, very best. That's what kills me."
Winterfeld said she has a tight-knit group of regular customers who range in age from their early 20s to their 80s, and she worries about their health.
"You try your hardest to keep people safe. ... You can't stop people from hugging each other," Winterfeld said.
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Evan Pruett, owner of Hooligan's, has directed his staff to ask people who show symptoms of illness to leave the business. He's also hung a sign on the entrance asking people to avoid coming inside if they feel sick. Thus far, his staff hasn't had to ask anyone to leave.
"If they're not showing signs, I'm open to the public," Pruett said.
Pruett has also set up tables in his parking area for customers wishing to be served outdoors, and he said he's followed all of the health guidelines. His staff have been sanitizing everything regularly.
"We're doing everything we possibly can to minimize the spread of COVID-19," Pruett said.
With the 11 new cases, Southeastern Idaho has now confirmed 223 COVID-19 cases, with 150 of those patients having already recovered.
Seven of those new cases were residents of Bannock County: A woman in her 50s who was infected through community transmission and is recovering at home, a man in his 70s recovering at home whose case is under investigation, a man in his 40s who was infected through community transmission and is recovering at home, a girls under 18 who was infected through community transmission and is recovering at home, a man in his 40s recovering at home whose case is under investigation and a woman in her 60s recovering at home whose case is under investigation.
A Bingham County woman in her 40s whose infection is under investigation is recovering at home. A Caribou County woman in her 40s who was infected through community transmission is recovering at home. A man in his 60s from Franklin County was infected as a result of travel and is recovering at home. An Oneida County man in his 60s had contact with a confirmed case and is recovering at home.
On Thursday, Southeastern Idaho Public Health confirmed the region's second death caused by COVID-19. The department confirmed a resident in his 80s with underlying health conditions died at a Blackfoot-based assisted living facility.
Statewide, 93 people have died from COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, the rise in Idaho cases has prompted the cities of Moscow and Hailey to make face coverings mandatory outside of the home. The Moscow policy started Thursday and was set to remain in place for seven days, with offenses punishable by a misdemeanor charge. The Hailey policy started Wednesday and will remain in place until it's repealed, punishable by a $100 fine.
Teton Valley News reported Driggs Mayor Hyrum Johnson passed a mayoral emergency ordinance on Thursday requiring masks to be worn in public and inside local businesses. Violators who refuse to wear a mask at a Driggs business could face up to a $100 fine, as well as a city trespassing citation.
The city of Boise announced that starting on July 4, people must wear masks in public within the city, the Idaho Press Tribune reported. The Press Tribune reported McCall also has a mask policy.