My Stand on Masks
I've been vocal on this topic in public meetings, social media, and in direct responses to concerned residents. I thought it would be good to share my view here as well. I support the recent decision by Central District Health to mandate masks for Ada County. I do not state that lightly. In my opinion this issue is not a partisan political issue, it is about saving Idaho lives. Our state has been in the top of the list for states with the % increase for COVID in the past couple of weeks, and we have a huge amount of community spread with a high percentage of positive tests, just as we are preparing to send our kids back to school. Put plainly, this is one of the only things that we can do to get COVID under control to save lives, ease the burden on our healthcare system, and avoid shutting down our economy again.
Here is a chart from our COVID-data via the Idaho division of public health from July 27th addressing one of the top comments I've received over the past weeks asking about hospital data:
Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy. That is why, in Meridian City Council, on the day of Central District Health's announcement, I proposed a new future agenda topic to consider an ordinance to implement the public health mask order as an infraction. Under state law, a public health order is a misdimeanor, which could result in up to six months in jail and a fine. I believe that if we pass an ordinance, we would be able to lead with education, and implement the order as an infraction with a series of fines. I received support to discuss in a future meeting from fellow council member Cavenor, but not the wider council before the meeting was ended by vote. The issue was covered here in the Idaho Press.
It’s extremely unfortunate and a missed opportunity that in the beginning of the pandemic various health officials confused and (in my opinion totally bungled the message to) the American People with an over-simplified and ill-informed initial message that masks were not effective. The truth is, that masks are somewhat effective, and I suspect the reason they missed an opportunity to be straightforward with us all was to preserve vital N-95 masks and other PPE during a shortage for medical workers.
Luckily, our Governor and others trusted Idaho residents with the truth – that masks were being saved for medical workers. And its true that the most effective masks are still being reserved for the healthcare workers who need them the most.
While cloth masks are much less effective, the science in the intervening months of this crisis has shown that widespread mask adoption is significant in slowing the spread of the virus because it blocks the largest droplets of virus. True, a cloth mask is not any guaranty that you will avoid COVID and it isn’t a guaranty if it’s all around you in the air. Yet, using a mask does help if you sneeze or cough, from aerosolizing the virus and passing it to others by catching the largest droplets.
I am extremely concerned about the level of community spread we are seeing. Idaho’s rate of community spread is significant and growing, especially in Ada County and Meridian when we are supposed to open up our public schools at the end of August. I am also saddened that Southwest District Health has been threatened to the point that they will not implement a mask order, despite being in the same region as Ada County.
In my correspondence with anti-mask residents over a month ago, I pointed out the challenge with hospital and ICU capacity is that hospitalizations for COVID lag the positive tests. At that time, it was pretty hard to say when we would reach the point that we would be overrun in a few weeks time. Since corresponding with several residents a month ago who urged me not to consider a mask mandate, our ICU's in Nampa and Meridian are now full. We have lost over 40 people since that time. https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/
It appears that the pandemic is raging here now. I personally urge you to wear a mask, and implement all measures to protect yourself and your loved ones. What you can expect from me as an elected official is that I will lead by example, share my straightforward and honest opinions on issues even when we may disagree, and that I am leading with an open heart.