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Health District Abruptly Cancels Meeting After Protesters Show Up To Board Members' Homes

Darin Oswald
Idaho Statesman
About 400 anti-mask protesters converge on the Central District Health offices Tuesday. CDH was scheduled to consider an expanded mask mandate but the meeting was adjourned early because of the protests.

Updated 6:50 p.m. on Dec. 9

The Central District Health board was set to consider a new health order Tuesday evening, but the board adjourned the meeting after only fifteen minutes, following a request from the Boise mayor and police chief.

Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Boise office building before the meeting, despite the fact that most commissioners joined the meeting virtually. Several Boise Police Department officers also were lined up outside.

Credit Central District Health

A few minutes into the meeting, Diana Lachiondo, the Ada County representative on the health board, interrupted a presentation from a local physician to say, through tears, that her 12-year-old son was home alone where there were protestors banging on the door. She left to go home.

Minutes later, District Director Russ Duke announced he had gotten a call from Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, asking the board to end the meeting.

"The police, and she, is requesting that we stop the meeting at this time because of the intense level of protestors in the parking lot," he said, "and the concern for police safety and staff safety, as well as the protestors that are at some of our board members homes right now."

Rep. Megan Blanksma, who represents Elmore Country on the board, said she checked with the officers outside the district office, and said they indicated that they had the situation under control, although they told her one person had been detained.

"Sadly, it's not under control," said. Dr. Ted Epperly, a commissioner on the board. "It's not under control at my house, and it's not under control at Diana's house."

The proposed order for the four-country district would have limited gatherings to 10 or fewer people and required face coverings “when physical distancing of 6-feet cannot be maintained from others who are not members of the same household both indoors and outdoors.” It also would’ve put some restrictions on seating and capacity in restaurants and bars, and on occupancy in gyms.

The health board meeting will be rescheduled, but a date has not yet been determined.

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean made a statement about the incident during a city council meeting Tuesday evening, and reiterated her position in a press release after.

"Our local health board is being asked to make decisions at the local level in lieu of statewide action," she wrote. "And when taking this job seriously – doing everything they can to help address the spread of COVID, they’re threatened and intimidated. No child should be frightened by a mob of protestors, no local official should fear violence for their public service."

Republican Rep. Megan Blanksma, who represents Elmore County on the health board, said the protests outside board members’ homes were inappropriate.

“You don’t harass people’s families. That’s not okay,” she told Boise State Public Radio in a Wednesday interview.

She said the large gathering outside Central District Health -- police estimated 300 to 400 people were there -- was peaceful, with people playing music and drinking hot chocolate.

Boise Police said that gathering was mostly peaceful, but it was monitoring a few protesters who indicated they wanted to force their way into the health district building.

Officers arrested one person at the health district offices for misdemeanor trespassing, and brought that person to the Ada County Jail. On Wednesday, the department said it was in the process of serving three arrest warrants to individuals outside private residences for disturbing the peace.

On Tuesday, Idaho saw a new record high for daily COVID-19 cases, with more than 2,000 confirmed and probable cases reported, before breaking that record the following day.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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