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Idaho bill to outlaw mask mandates heads to the house floor

There is a movement in Idaho’s statehouse that would ban any government agencies, schools, or colleges from implementing a mask mandate.

BOISE, Idaho — As a result of Omicron waning across the country, several states including Illinois and New York say they plan to let their statewide public mask mandates expire in all places aside from schools.

There is a movement in Idaho’s statehouse that would ban any government agencies, schools, or colleges from implementing a mask mandate.

Representative Karey Hanks of Saint Anthony, attempted to pass a bill that would have outlawed mask mandated three times over the past year. On Wednesday, it was introduced to the House State of Affairs Committee and passed in a party-line vote with both democrats voting against it.

"I am certain that if we had massive people dying in the streets because the disease was as virulent as we might hope against, we wouldn't need mandates everyone would be protecting themselves automatically," said Representative Vito Barbieri.

Nearly 4,5000 Idahoans have died from COVID since the start of the pandemic.

"They are tired of mandates and are willing to live with the risk that remains and I think we are at the point in Idaho where we are more than ready to deal with whatever risks there are," Representative Hanks said.

Of the three members of the public who testified on the bill, two supported Hank’s motion.

"The younger kids who have grown up through this have lost an average of 20 I.Q. points and that is devastating,” claimed Lynne Laird, a Meridian psychologist. “A big piece of that is likely because of masks because children need to see faces in order to learn and to grow.”

According to Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, there is no evidence that supports that children wearing masks results in lower IQs.

"There is no credible scientific evidence that masks in themselves cause anxiety or depression in children, there's absolutely no evidence that masks impact childhood development or learning,” Peterman said. “If you look at, for example, motor and language development in children that are severely, visually impaired it’s equal to their peers.”

According to Peterman, what does impact child development is when students are having to be pulled out of school because of COVID exposure. He added that there is evidence that proves masks effectively lower your risk of catching COVID.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare shared CDC data on Tuesday that stated wearing a cloth mask lowers the risk of contracting the virus by 56 percent, a surgical mask lowers this risk by 66 percent, and N95 or KN95 can lower the chances of getting COVID by 83 percent.

"Government closest to the people is best and the state of Idaho continually complains about the federal government, and here the state is trying to make rules that would prohibit people from the local level from doing what they feel is best for their people,” said Stephanie Mickelson, a College of Eastern Idaho Trustee. "If we pass a law right now that prohibits that, what happens if you have something that is even more significant than covid in the future, you have this bill that says, you can’t do that."

The bill now heads to the house floor.

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