Panhandle Health Board Approves Kootenai County Mask Mandate

Jul 23, 2020

The crowd at Thursday's Panhandle Health District meeting in Coeur d'Alene sits physically distanced as it listens to the board deliberate.
Credit Courtesy of Panhandle Health District

The Idaho Panhandle Health Board has voted to enact a mask mandate for Kootenai County.

At the end of a three-hour meeting, which included public testimony, the board voted four-to-two to require people to wear face coverings in public.

Board member Jai Nelson from Kootenai County, a nurse, read parts of a letter by Coeur d’Alene school superintendent Steven Cook, encouraging the board to consider a mask requirement. Then she spoke directly to her board colleagues.

“We need to do this together as a board and a community. We’re all tired of staying home, tired of seeing businesses struggle, tired of hearing about the death rates. We need to do whatever we can to take control and defeat this virus," Nelson said.

Boundary County Commissioner Walt Kirby said a mask mandate imposed by a five-county board isn’t going to change behavior.

“If we mandate it or not mandate wearing the mask is probably not going to make one whit of difference in how it all turns out in the long run because people are people. We got a whole half a day’s worth of people here. They’re going to go home and start wearing masks, no matter what," Kirby said.

He voted no for the measure, which, according to board attorney Marc Lyons, applies only to Kootenai County, which is the county hit hardest by the virus in the Panhandle.

After the vote was tallied, several people in the physically-distanced audience loudly declared they would not wear masks.