‘We’re in a game of safety now’: Business owners worried as COVID-19 cases spike in N. Idaho

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho. – North Idaho saw the largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases Thursday, with 97 people testing positive for the virus. On Friday, another 81 cases were reported.

North Idaho is currently under Phase 4 of reopening, meaning anyone can be out in public. While physical distancing and wearing a mask are encouraged, they aren’t required under state law.

“We’ve been busy, like pretty much every single day of the week,” said Daniel Bentley, General Manager at Seasons Fresh Grill.

COVID-19 initially forced local businesses to shut their doors. Now, pretty much every shop and restaurant in downtown Coeur D’Alene is back open for business.

“We love that and at the same time it’s a solid balancing act of just trying to stay safe the whole time,” said Bentley.

Regardless, cases have skyrocketed in North Idaho.

“We’re a little scared for the fact that we want to keep our staff safe and our guests safe,” said Bentley.

Due to the increase, Bentley is requiring his employees to wear face masks while on the clock. As of right now, customers aren’t being asked to mask up before dining in.

Just down the street, Blair Williams, Owner of the Art Spirit Gallery is taking a different approach.

“We are asking people to put a mask on when they come in, but we’re not yet requiring it,” she said.

Williams said although it may be controversial for some, it’s important to keep everyone healthy.

“We’re in a game of safety now. We want to keep our friends, family, staff, our artists and everyone else alive,” said Williams.

In the best case scenario, Williams said a vaccine would be ready sooner rather than later. Until then, she’s encouraging everyone in the community to work together.

“I’m hoping that we will all learn to care for one another enough that we’ll take care and wear masks and socially distance,” she said.

“We’re abiding by Panhandle Health as much as we can and we’ll keep abiding as they give us out new information, too,” said Bentley.

The Panhandle Health District is encouraging everyone to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart from one another.

In terms of testing, the Kootenai County Health District said they’re up to 400 tests per day. Two weeks ago, they were averaging about 215 tests per day.

READ: Two staff members from Gov. Little’s office test positive for COVID-19

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