Tuesday, April 23, 2024

County officials wash hands of mask mandate

Staff Writer | August 21, 2020 1:09 AM

Two residents push for some PHD members to be replaced

COEUR d’ALENE — Almost a month after the Panhandle Health District’s face-covering mandate, two people expressed opposition to the order at Wednesday’s Kootenai County commissioners meeting.

Hayden resident Sandy White brought up the process of replacing PHD board members Jai Nelson, R.N., and Dr. Richard McLandress. She wanted to know what was being done by commissioners to replace them with elected officials.

Chris Fillios said the commissioners are not taking action on the issue for many reasons.

“Shortly after PHD’s decision was made, the White House COVID Task Force came out and cited three counties — Ada, Canyon, and Kootenai — saying they need to pass a mask mandate,” Fillios said. “Granted PHD had already done it. So at this point, I’m not planning to address it until the next (board member) comes up for reappointment, which would be next June.”

White asked when the mandate was expected to expire. She said because of the lack of elected officials on PHD’s board, the commissioners are the next step Kootenai County residents can approach.

Commissioner Bill Brooks, who has spoken out against the mask mandate, said replacing the health district’s members is not a priority.

“Five counties make up PHD, each has three commissioners, and it would take eight of them to agree,” Brooks said. “I have much more important things to do while caring for Kootenai County than chasing around other politicians.”

Brooks said local police agencies have taken the stance of education over enforcement, lessening the mandate’s impact.

“So every time a decision is made, we’re just going to go ahead and change the characters?” Fillios said. “That’s just not the way the game is played.”

Fillios pointed out that one of the disadvantages of putting elected officials onto the PHD board is that the process would become heavily politicized. According to the commissioners, Nelson’s seat on the board is up for reappointment in June, giving unsatisfied citizens a chance to voice their opposition.

“People are barking up the wrong tree. The questions that we were asked should be the Panhandle Health, not the commissioners,” Brooks said. “It’s not something we can just turn around and change.”

There is no scheduled end date for the mask mandate. Fillios believes lifting the order will most likely align with Gov. Brad Little’s decision to exit stage four of reopening. PHD has a meeting set for Thursday with COVID-19-related agenda items.