BOISE — Mask mandates and indigent care took a back seat to individual responsibility Monday, during the 10th week of Idaho’s 2021 legislative session.
Details from some of the day’s bill activity:
Legislation prohibiting the state or local units of government from imposing mask mandates to slow the spread of contagious diseases earned a favorable recommendation from the House State Affairs Committee.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony, indicates that face masks or shields cannot be required “as a condition for entry, education, employment or other services.”
The legislation, which doesn’t yet have a bill number, applies to cities, counties, public schools and universities, public health districts and other special taxing jurisdictions, as well as to state agencies.
However, the measure specifically exempts hospitals and health care facilities. That language was added after Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, noted that an earlier version of the bill may have prevented hospitals or hospital districts from requiring masks.
Almost all of the testimony during an hourlong public hearing was in support of the legislation.
Dr. Lynn Laird, a Treasure Valley psychologist, noted that sexual assault victims often can’t wear masks without suffering severe mental health trauma, because it’s a reminder of having their face covered during an attack.
She said the police and business owners either don’t know or don’t care that mask mandates typically include exemptions for people who can’t wear masks for medical reasons.
“Exemptions aren’t honored in this community,” she said.
Others question the efficacy of cloth face masks, or suggested they cause more medical harm than good. They also said government shouldn’t be able to mandate the use of a medical device by the general public.
Susan Gilman drove eight hours from Sandpoint to testify on the bill. She moved to Idaho from California last year “to get away from the madness.”
“But there are zombies walking around here with masks, too,” she said. “We’re spiraling this beautiful state into the gutter.”