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PANHANDLE HEALTH VOTES TO CONTINUE MASK MANDATE

TL;DR

  • Panhandle Health voted 4-3 to extend mask mandate for 90 days.
  • List of things you can do to put pressure on those who voted no.
  • H33 may help with the health districts if it passes in the Idaho Legislature.

PHD has publicly stated they don't care what sheriffs think about enforcement

Yesterday, the Panhandle Health Board of Directors again voted to continue the mask mandate for another 90 days for all FIVE panhandle counties. This vote comes on the heels of a Covid Update presentation by Epidemiologist Jeff Lee at the meeting that shows the dramatic DROP in Covid counts in the panhandle, entire state of Idaho, and around the country. He called it a "steep trend downwards." Here's the points about what's trending down:

  • Hospitalization rate ↓↓
  • Positivity rate ↓↓
    • Including daily average cases ↓↓
    • Including local weekly positivity rate ↓↓
  • Death rate ↓↓
Jeff Lee did mention that Kootenai Health is at 103% capacity - although he did say that was NOT because of Covid hospitalizations. Those were directly because of "med surg" beds and lack of nursing staff for those beds; alllll those people that are having elective surgeries now because they were forced to wait are causing the hospital to be at capacity. That reason plus the fact that Kootenai Health cannot handle the influx of people moving to the area is making it seem like Covid is a bigger deal than it really is for the hospital.

What is REALLY interesting about Jeff's presentation was the extreme LACK of flu cases in the Panhandle Health District. He presented a slide that showed the flu trends from 2017-2021 and it's comical how little flu cases there are this season vs. the last 5 seasons. Please forgive my terrible picture, this is a screenshot of the livestream as they only allowed TWO members of the public into the meeting. I was sitting in my car for this presentation so I could hear his numbers. :) (The red line is the 2020-2021 season so far. The blue line stops halfway through the 2019-2020 season because they were "too overwhelmed" with Covid to continue tracking.)
 

Another interesting slide from Jeff's presentation was the comparison of pediatric deaths due to flu over the past 3 seasons. It's a sad day any time a helpless baby passes away and this is no different. Babies are humans also and they die all the time, just like everyone else, but their deaths are the most devastating. So please take this next slide as just stats, nothing more. According to the CDC, there are multiple pediatric deaths due to flu EVERY season. MULTIPLE deaths. This current season has only seen ONE pediatric death due to flu. Just one. In the COUNTRY. Jeff admitted that this is atypical of a flu season but didn't want to give any assumptions as to why this is the case.
 

Even with all these stats, the usual suspects couldn't get past that people are DYING! and we need to control our part! Dr. Banks and Mr. Bailey straight up said that trying to pass a mandate, ESPECIALLY with these downward trends, is just fear mongering and scare tactics. Although there was no discussion from newly-elected Boundary County Commissioner (and new health board member) Tim Bertling, he also voted NO and I think we may have another solid conservative vote in the future.

Here's the overall vote to extend the mask mandate:
Dr. Richard McLandress (Kootenai) - YES
Jai Nelson (Kootenai) - YES
Dr. Allen Banks (Bonner) - NO
Glen Bailey (Bonner) - NO
Tim Bertling (Boundary) - NO
Mike Fitzgerald (Shoshone) - YES
Because the vote was tied, Chair Marlow Thompson's (Benewah) vote actually got to count this time and his vote was YES.
Jai Nelson, Kootenai Co.
Dr. Richard McLandress, Kootenai Co.
Mike Fitzgerald, Shoshone Co.
Marlow Thompson, Benewah Co.

Here's what you can do in Kootenai County

The Kootenai County Commissioners are the ones who appoint those Kootenai representatives onto the Panhandle Health Board. Our current commissioners may not have been the actual people to appoint the reps originally, but it is their duty to ensure that their representatives REPRESENT the people they serve. Because Nelson and McLandress are both appointed, not ELECTED, it's up to the Commissioners to hold them accountable, which means that WE need to hold the Commissioners accountable for their actions. Or rather inactions. CDA Press did a decent job of articulating our commissioners' opinions about masks, which you can read about here.

There are things we can do, and we can do them now:

  1. Write emails to each commissioner explaining (nicely) your opinion about the mandate and Panhandle Health board members. We can also remind them that Jai Nelson's term is about to end in June 2021 and there BETTER be public opinion about who to appoint next.
  2. Write emails to the other county commissioners in Shoshone County and tell them how horrible of a representative they have in Mike Fitzgerald. He is a democrat Shoshone County Commissioner who ran unopposed in both the primary and general elections, and that little fact is biting everyone in the butt right now. Also, tell everyone you know who lives in Shoshone about what's going on and HE'S the reason they have a mask mandate in place. This needs to get out far and wide in Shoshone Co. because I have a feeling no one is paying attention over there and they had no idea about what's going on.


More Items to Watch

There is a bill that has been introduced in the House of the Idaho State Legislature regarding some authority procedures of the health districts. House bill H33 - District boards of health - is sitting in the House Health & Welfare committee right now waiting for the time when it's put on the agenda to hear testimony. Highlights from that bill include:

  1. Any person adversely affected by a decision/order of a board of health may request the county commissioners to review the decision. The commissioners may vote to either decline or uphold that decision brought forth by the health board.
  2. Board of health shall have the power to impose/enforce orders of isolation & quarantine for up to 30 days. Anything past that will have to be approved by county commissioners or, if only applying to a city, the city council.
Just from those two points above, this is not a very popular bill amongst the Panhandle Health Board. Good. :D Now's our chance to affect actions of our legislators by emailing them asking them to bring H33 to testimony. It's up to the House Health & Welfare committee chair to put it on the agenda and hear public testimony. Below are the names and email addresses of EVERYONE on that committee, and when you do email, please remember to keep your mail short, concise, to the point, and NICE. We all have emotions wrapped up in everything that's happening, but it's better to build a bridge than destroy one in these circumstances. 
 

House Health & Welfare Committee

Fred Wood, Chair FWood@house.idaho.gov
John Vander Woude, Vice Chair JVanderWoude@house.idaho.gov
Marc Gibbs MGibbs@house.idaho.gov
Megan Blanksma MBlanksma@house.idaho.gov
Mike Kingsley MKingsley@house.idaho.gov
Chad Christensen CChristensen@house.idaho.gov
Laurie Lickley LLickley@house.idaho.gov
Marco Erickson MErickson@house.idaho.gov
Greg Ferch GFerch@house.idaho.gov
Brandon Mitchell BMitchell@house.idaho.gov
Sue Chew (D) SChew@house.idaho.gov
Ilana Rubel (D) IRubel@house.idaho.gov
Muffy Davis (D) MDavis@house.idaho.gov

One last thing before I close, there's been A LOT happening behind the scenes and I have a ton of things I want to give to you guys but it's proving difficult. Things I want to get out to you include a document of all the legislator's email addresses so it'll be easy to copy/paste into an email and a better list of all the bills that you should keep your eye on in the Legislature. I'm trying to keep these mails at a minimum so you don't get sick of them but it's getting hard right now with everything going on. I may have to do a couple of days of multiple mails or even send a few out on the weekend, but I'm not sure yet so if you see an abnormal email from me, just know it's because I'm trying to get you all the information and not because I'm trying to spam your inbox. :)
 
 
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