Update: SCPHD board votes against proposed face mask mandate

The board heard from 39 people in-person and received more than 2,000 written comments and emails
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 11:10 AM MST|Updated: Nov. 19, 2020 at 4:04 PM MST
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Thursday afternoon a large crowd gathered outside the South Central Public Health District office in Twin Falls to comment on the health district’s proposed face-covering mandate that its board members would be voting on after all public comments were heard.

There were drafts of two different health orders up for discussion: Public Health Order A and B. Both orders discuss the health district’s concern with the rising COVID cases in the eight-county region. It reads, “as of November 10, 2020, South Central Public Health District was reporting 11,845 total confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 226 new cases on November 9, 2020, and 112 deaths to date, throughout the Health District”.

Both orders also outline the impact the virus is having on the health care system, causing a significant increase in hospitalizations and usage of intensive care unit beds, as well as, creating capacity issues. Both orders read, “During the past two weeks, the South Central Public Health District’s regional hospital, St. Luke’s Magic Valley, was required to divert and/or turn away patients multiple times because it had no available hospital beds”. Both also read that hospitals in Utah are at capacity and are no longer accepting patients from Idaho.

One of the big issues people had with the draft orders was the penalty associated with it. According to the draft orders, anyone, “who violates any provision of this Order shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $300, or imprisonment of six months in the county jail”.

The big difference between the two health orders is exemptions. Draft B has more than exemptions listed on it, allowing for the removal of face masks for people participating in court proceedings when authorized by the judge, youth or adult athletes competing in a sporting event, people participating in Educational Activities involving students taught by an educator at a school if facial coverings are not required by the school, and people s participating in religious activities when face masks are not required.

But whatever the language was, many people who showed up Thursday to speak were firmly against any form of a mandate. A “No Face Mask” rally formed in the health district parking lot and many people held up signs showing their disapproval of face masks and mandates.

Inside public comment was limited to 90 minutes and 39 people were able to speak to the board. Shaylene Reeves, who was able to speak to the board, said she didn’t think the board would pass a mandate after listening to all the people. Some people who spoke to the health board that face masks should be a personal choice and not required, and others felt there was scientific proof that face-coverings mitigates the spread of COVID-19. One person said, “Your mask does nothing for you. It is a psychological game to make you feel safe”.

But the most common comment heard on Thursday from people who were against face masks was that they felt a mandate is unconstitutional. Many referring to a mandate as a form of “government control” and “Socialism” or “Communism”. One gentleman in the health district parking told a crowd, “Stop their mask mandate. All it is, is a control element”.

After listening to all the scheduled speakers Thursday afternoon, and taking into consideration more than 2, 2000 written comments, the board prepared to make a decision.

At first, a motion was made by Twin Falls County Commissioner Brent Reinke, who is a board member, to table both public health orders indefinitely. The motion was seconded by board member Robert Kunau who is Cassia County Commissioner. The motion voted down 5 to 4, as well as, a second motion to table it until the health board meeting in January. Board member Tracy Haskin of Minidoka County said she didn’t believe the board members needed to be tabling the vote on the proposed public health order, and they needed to make a “Yes or No decision” on Thursday. Board member Angenie McCleary, a Blaine County Commissioner, agreed that action needed to be taken. She commented that St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus had notified the board that they will be in “critical standards by December” and “now is the time to take action”. McCleary ended by saying they have heard from the public, and they no the “pros and the cons” and action needed to be taken Thursday.

McCleary then made a motion that was seconded by board member Keith Davis, who is a Medical Consultant, to approve public health order B. Reinke was the adamant opponent of passing a mandate because the penalty associated with could potentially have a huge negative impact on Twin Falls County. He acknowledged there is health crisis and capacity issues with the hospital system, but the Twin Falls County jail is dealing with an overcrowding issue, and adding to the problem by throwing people in jail for violating a health order didn’t make sense to him. Other board members felt that public health order B had so many exemptions listed on it, that it was like not passing a mask mandate at all. In the end, when the roll call vote was done, it filed 5 to 4 with Twin Falls, Gooding, Cassia, Jerome, and Lincoln voting against the mandate, and Blaine, Camas, Minidoka, and the medical consultant voting for it.

More than 100 people were standing outside the board room when the board members’ votes were announced, and almost everyone cheered and expressed extreme relief that a mandate wasn’t passed.

One person said Magic Valley residents are now “2 and 0″ when it comes to putting a stop to face mask mandated. The Twin Falls City Council tabled its draft for a face mask mandate a few weeks ago. Sharon Garvey said, “They are trying to control us, and I don’t believe that is what America is all about”.

-Original Story-

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - In the nearly split vote, a motion to approve a mask mandate in south central Idaho did not pass with 5 no votes and 4 yes votes Thursday afternoon during a special meeting.

South Central Public Health District’s board of directors discussed two public health orders and gave members of the public two minutes to comment.

During the board meeting, 39 people presented their comments to board members and by the time the meeting had concluded the board has received more than 2,200 written comments and emails. The majority of those commenting were against a mask mandate. Many people waited outside of the health district building to voice their opinion. Many held signs and spoke to those outside.

Two motions were initially by commissioners to table the discussion, one indefinably, and the other until mid-January. A few board members believed a decision needed to made Thursday whether for or against so the board could move forward.

Board members from Blaine, Camas, Minidoka counties and the medical consultant voted to pass the Public Health Order B. Board members from Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln and Twin Falls counties voted no on the health order.

KMVT will update this story with more information.

There were two different health orders up for discussion following a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and the state moving back to modified stages of reopening.

The meeting is listed for 1:30 p.m. at the health district offices in Twin Falls. Due to COVID-19 precautions, only two members of the public will be allowed in at a time to ask questions.

Read drafted public health orders to be discussed

Orders A and B are similar in that they would mandate face coverings of a person’s nose and mouth in public indoor and outdoor places or when others are present. There is a list of exceptions.

Penalties would include first education then compliance. A person could face a misdemeanor, a fine of $300 or imprisonment up to six months in jail.

The difference is Order B lists a few more exceptions for youth and adult sports activities, court proceedings where a judge permits face coverings to be removed, persons participating in religious activities and in schools where face coverings are not required.

Public comments will be limited to 2 minutes per person and sign-up sheets will be available at the door starting at 1 p.m. the public can also submit public comments here.

The Board of Health is gathering for a special meeting on Thursday. The board will take public comment, regarding the...

Posted by South Central Public Health District on Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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