No mask mandate for North Idaho yet, health district decides

The Panhandle Health District board did not support a measure to require mask use in public.

HAYDEN, Idaho — Even as a wave of mask mandates are sweeping the country, North Idaho will remain without one at least a while longer.

The Panhandle Health District elected not to require people in the region to wear masks during their board meeting on Friday.

The district covers Kootenai, Bonners, Boundary, Benewah, and Shoshone counties. Friday saw a total of 66 new cases district-wide, mostly in Kootenai County. Overall community spread has accelerated during the summer months.

The lone medical doctor on the board, Richard McLandress, moved to institute a mask mandate. The motion did not even receive a second and so died.

Another member proposed delaying any further conversation about masks until next Thursday’s meeting; that motion passed.

The meeting was held in person with limited attendance and broadcast on Zoom. Hundreds of demonstrators protested the idea of a mask requirement both in person and digitally. One at some point was able to take control of the screen-writing function of Zoom and write “no masks” across the screen.

A number of state lawmakers were in attendance. Rep. Tony Wisniewski (R-Post Falls) says he sides with the protesters.

“To treat the whole nation as if they were infected the same way as the city of New York makes as much sense as to treat Northern Idaho with one death in the upper five counties… the same as Ada County and Boise and Canyon County,” he said.

Wisniewski says he expects a similar turnout at next week’s meeting.

Although governments in North Idaho are declining to require mask use in public, many private entities are taking action. Stores, including major retailers like Target and Walmart, have announced customers will not be allowed inside if they’re not wearing a mask.

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