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Panhandle Health extends mask mandate

Hagadone News Network | January 28, 2021 3:33 PM

The Panhandle Health Board voted Thursday to extend its district-wide mask mandate for another 90 days.

With a crowd of 40-50 protesters outside chanting how they will not comply with a mask mandate, the board made their vote on the motion of board member Dr. Richard McLandress, garnering a second from board member and nurse Jai Nelson, to extend the mask requirement through the end of April.

The 4-3 vote was a stalemate until chair Marlow Thompson broke the tie by voting for the mandate.

Board members passionately argued for both sides of the mandate, with McLandress saying the mask mandate tells people near and far that North Idaho takes the virus and the district's reports of 236 deaths seriously.

“We are inundated — actually flooded — with nonsense,” he said. “The nonsense that this is no more than the flu and the nonsense that there may be no coronavirus or COVID-19 around us causing all this trouble. I’m happy to that nonsense that we know better.”

Other board members, however, continued to push the narrative that downplays the effectiveness of masks in the battle against COVID, including from board member Allen Banks.

“We’ve had an ongoing experiment going on worldwide with masks versus no masks, depending on the jurisdiction where one lives," Banks said. "There’s no significant difference between areas with mask mandates and areas without mask mandates. One would expect to see a huge difference if, in fact, masks were effective. If there’s just a minor difference, the imposition of a government mandate on the public at large does not make any sense.”

The existing mandate was to remain in effect through the end of January.