Kellogg renews mask mandate for third time

by CHANSE WATSON, Managing Editor and JOSH McDONALD, Staff Reporter
| November 13, 2020 9:42 AM

KELLOGG — The Silver Valley's biggest town will remain one of only two cities in the Panhandle Health District that has active rules in place to encourage mask wearing.

The Kellogg City Council once again voted in favor of extending their resolution for their mask ordinance inside the city’s limits on Wednesday night. The extension is for another 30-day period and is an exact replica of the original piece of legislation that was passed in late July.

Mayor Mac Pooler, who was forced to vote and break a 3-3 tie amongst his city councilmen in July, didn’t have to vote this time around as the extension passed by a 5-1 vote.

Pooler stated that from all of the information that has been presented to him, as well as the other city of Kellogg officials, keeping the resolution is an easy decision.

“The info that we are getting from the state is to maintain space, wash your hands and wear masks,” Pooler said. “I don’t know what else we can do to slow this down.”

The Panhandle Health District shows that as of Thursday, there are 117 active COVID-19 cases in Shoshone County and there have been 21 related deaths (15 of which coming from a single Kellogg retirement facility).

With the renewal of the resolution, Kellogg and Coeur d'Alene are currently the only cities in the five northern counties with mask wearing regulations in place that also have penalties associated with them. The Kootenai County cities of Post Falls and Hayden recently considered mask mandates, but both were voted down by their respective city councils.

Pooler mentioned that watching neighboring communities in Kootenai County and in Spokane struggle with positive cases is one of the driving forces behind keeping the resolution in place.

“We are seeing this being made political in other areas and it isn’t,” Pooler said. “It’s a public health and safety issue, and when we watch and listen to the experts, they are recommending masks and spacing. Where do you draw the line though? Our job as officials is to protect our citizens.”

Kellogg was the first city in the Idaho Panhandle to pass a mask mandate that has repercussions for not following it.

According to Section 1 in the resolution, “every person, shall, when in any indoor or outdoor public place, completely cover their nose and mouth, when members of the public are physically present for otherwise unprotected social interaction.”

In both the resolution and the ordinance, it is explained that anyone who fails to comply with the provisions of the order would be guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine of $100.

The document also includes several exemptions to the rule which include:

• Children under the age of 5.

• Persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering. A person is not required to provide documentation demonstrating that the person cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering.

• Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

• Persons, including on-duty law-enforcement officers, for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state or federal regulators, or workplace safety guidelines.

• Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose, face or head for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.

• Persons who are eating or drinking at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, so long as the person is able to maintain a distance of 6 feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or party as the person.

• Outdoor public places where a person can employ social distancing as recommended by CDC where the person is able to maintain a distance of 6-feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or party as the person.

When the resolution and ordinance were passed in July, city councilors Anna Moody, Terry Douglas and Dennis Norris voted in favor of the ordinance; while Ron Delcamp, Ron Mercado and Sid Armstrong voted against it.

This time around, only Councilman Delcamp voted in dissension of the resolution.

Pooler understands that with increased testing, there will also be an increased number of positive cases, but isn’t faulting anyone for seeking a test.

The mayor also discussed how he is thankful for Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s support throughout the entire ordeal, as well as his willingness to support the idea of local control.

“Gov. Little has been really helpful by letting us make the calls and then supporting our decisions,” Pooler said. “We know what we need here and then the state supports us as needed.”

This latest extension will run for another 30 days, after which the council will need to meet and discuss it once again.