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Pocatello postpones voting on mask ordinance to gather more information

Coronavirus

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Courtesy City of Pocatello

POCATELLO — The city of Pocatello has tabled discussion on a proposed city ordinance that would require residents to wear a mask in public places.

The Pocatello City Council met for a work session Thursday and spent over an hour debating the topic, which at times became heated.

Mayor Brian Blad expressed his support for the idea. He told the council even his 3-year-old grandson understands that wearing a mask is something people do to protect others.

“It’s not hard to wear a mask,” Blad said. “If you cannot social distance, it’s very easy to put a mask on … if a 3-year-old can get it — so can we.”

The mayor emphasized that he is not in favor of any legislation that forces people to do something, however, he said he has a greater fear of Pocatello closing down again due to a major spike in COVID-19 cases. He says mask would help prevent that.

The debate centered around a recently drafted ordinance, which mandates that “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 with persons other than household members.”

The ordinance also has a list of exceptions to the rule, such as children under 5 or people with medical issues or disabilities. For a complete list click here.

Several council members expressed concern the ordinance might be jumping the gun, and that other options to deal with COVID-19 should be explored.

“I will not be able to vote for an ordinance until we can have a discussion on other options to achieve the same goal,” councilwoman Claudia Ortega said. “But there are other ways of getting there.”

Ultimately, the council voted in favor of tabling the issue and holding a special session with medical professionals to get their take on potential legislation. Council members also suggested that they work toward the development of a community education campaign to teach residents more about COVID-19.

Voting on the ordinance will be postponed until these other discussions have taken place.

Watching the hearing in the embedded Facebook video below.

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