A controversial proposal by Central District Health to implement a four-county mask mandate has failed in a 3-3 vote.
The vote came just days after protests at board members’ homes prompted Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee to urge CDH officials to shut down a meeting during which they were considering the issue.
The measure would’ve applied to Boise and Elmore counties, which have not been under such a mandate during the pandemic.
Boise County’s two-week average case counts have jumped due its small population size, which can skew the data, while Elmore County’s rate has drastically dropped from late November, though they’re still significantly elevated.
Mask mandates in Ada and Valley counties will remain in place where two-week average case counts have either tapered down or plateaued.
In the four-county district, Dr. Ted Epperly, one of the two medical professionals on the board who supported the mandate, said average case counts are between 85-90 per 100,000 people – 45 times higher than the level he feels is necessary to lift restrictions on face masks and gatherings.
In voting against the proposal, Valley County Commissioner Elt Hasbrouck said he’s listening to the public, even though CDH Director Russ Duke said the majority of the comments received supported such a wide-sweeping mandate.
“If we make everybody mad by passing a mandate, an order, when it comes to vaccinating people, I think people are going to dig in their heels and that’s the last thing we need because that’s going to drag it out for another year or two years,” Hasbrouck said.
State Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) agreed with Hasbrouck that her constituents haven’t wanted such a mandate and that, anecdotally, masks are becoming more widespread in Elmore County.
Now’s the time, Blanksma said, to shift away from a public relations campaign about compliance.
“I think that if we start focusing on getting more cooperation, more public interest in different methods to help control the spread, I think we’re actually going to have a higher level of success,” she said.
Board member Diana Lachiondo, who voted for the proposal, said her constituents are concerned about being able to get treated if they become sick, even though the coronavirus vaccine is starting to be administered.
“It does mean we all need to make sacrifices over the next couple of months to white-knuckle our way through this,” Lachiondo said.
Panhandle Health District in North Idaho remains the only one out of seven public health districts to have implemented a region-wide mask mandate, though others have passed them for a handful of counties.