A privately owned Idaho hot springs announced recently that it will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for any guests, prompting a deluge of social media criticism.
Gold Fork Hot Springs in Donnelly recently updated its website to show that it will reopen on July 16 after closing its doors early in the pandemic. A banner on the website states: “Proof of vaccination with photo ID required for entry. No unvaccinated persons will be admitted, this includes unvaccinated children.”
It wasn’t immediately clear when the reopening update was posted. The Idaho Statesman has reached out to Gold Fork Hot Springs officials for more information.
Negative reviews of Gold Fork began appearing on Yelp, and critical comments appeared on the hot springs’ Facebook page on July 10.
Reviewers from California, New York, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and other states left one-star Yelp reviews accusing the business of discriminating and participating in “medical apartheid.”
Twenty-five one-star reviews were posted on Yelp as of Monday morning. Only a few of those were left by reviewers who claimed to be located in Idaho. Several of the reviews compared the policy to “Nazi” behavior.
“Wish I could give it 0 stars,” wrote Tiffany K., of Fernandina Beach, Florida. “They are now not allowing entrance to any unvaccinated individual, even children. They must be ignoring the science, warnings from doctors, studies and research that is showing the MASSIVE, negative impact it is having on children and adults alike.”
Research has shown the vaccines are both safe and effective. On Friday, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials said nearly 99% of all COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths since Jan. 1 have been unvaccinated individuals. More than 670,000 Idahoans have been fully vaccinated, IDHW reports, and the agency has not confirmed any deaths related to COVID-19 vaccines.
Gold Fork was also met with criticism on Facebook, where people began commenting on its most recent post (from March, clarifying that it was still closed) with photos of the website banner and critiques of the policy. Numerous commenters said they hope Gold Fork will go out of business over the policy.
It’s not the first private business to implement a vaccine requirement. Last week, several Idaho health care providers announced they would require employees — but not patients — to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The move drew criticism from some Idaho legislators, though legal experts told the Statesman it’s within private businesses’ rights to require vaccines.