Panhandle Health Considers Mask Mandate
by Shari Dovale
Contention filled the Panhandle Health special board meeting last week when protesters gathered both in person and online. Due to social distancing guidelines, the meeting was held with access extended through a zoom meeting, as well as via telephone.
Reports were that over 100 people attended in person, as well as the 500 limit being reached on the zoom meeting and phone attendees. This was a huge turnout with an overwhelming majority decidedly against a required mask mandate.
The meeting was disrupted during the slide presentation as a hacker scribbled “No Mask” on the screen presentation.
Former Bonner County commissioner Glen Bailey led the meeting. Discussion included the reported false positives on the testing that cited studies finding it to be between 50-80%. The board also confirmed that the rate of positive tests were increasing exponentially because testing was increasing exponentially.
Boundary County Commissioner Walt Kirby spoke for the citizens when he said that people and businesses should decide for themselves whether they should wear a mask. “It’s an unenforceable thing anyway.”
Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger echoed Kirby’s sentiments when he said that a mask mandate is unenforceable.
Board member Dr. Richard McLandress seemed disturbed that the overall sentiments were leaning against a mask mandate, as he repeatedly pushed for a mandate to be put in place. He also reminded the public that, though the meeting was open to the public to attend, it was not a meeting with the public.
McLandress made the motion to bring the issue to a vote. The motion failed to garner a second, and as as per the open meeting rules, the motion failed. Board member Jai Nelson then made a motion to postpone any discussion on it until their next regular meeting.
Glen Bailey weighed in before the meeting ended, “I recognize the threat to our general population is minimal. When I see the numbers, the statistics, yes, this is not the common flu. But at the same time, the death rates and the statistics I’ve seen show me this is not a larger threat than the flu. It is not, in my opinion, a reason that schools close down or businesses close down.”
The matter of a mask mandate will be reconsidered at their next regular meeting, as the motion stated, “after members have had a more thorough opportunity to read and understand the data behind the virus.”
This brings up the question as to how much more information can the board members gather in just a few days when they were supposed to be following this public health issue for the past 4 months?
The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 23rd at 12:30
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