‘We will not comply!’ City of Rexburg tables mask mandate while protestors interrupt meeting
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REXBURG — The Rexburg City Council met to discuss a possible mask mandate Wednesday evening, but amid yelling from members of the public, city leaders decided not to pursue the ordinance for now.
Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill said during the meeting that discussing a mask mandate was brought up because Gov. Brad Little moved Idaho back to a modified Stage 2 of its Idaho Rebounds reopening plan.
As the council and mayor talked about face coverings, they were interrupted countless times by protestors outside the City Hall building and on the meeting audio. Even before the discussion started and the council addressed other city matters, one protestor demanded over the audio feed that the council would hurry up and get to the mask mandate.
During the mask discussion, the protestors would break into chants, such as “We will not comply!” They frequently and loudly expressed frustration at not being let inside, although the council was not holding a public hearing on the issue. It was difficult at times to hear the audio due to the protestors interfering.
Merrill decided the council would make decisions regarding face masks at a later time.
“Our end goal here is to keep our businesses open … and be thriving,” Merrill said. “We’re trying to make sure those are the kinds of things we’re considering here.”
Madison County is in the critical risk — the highest level — of Eastern Idaho Public Health’s COVID-19 Regional Response Plan. On Wednesday, the county had the second-most amount of new COVID-19 cases in the health district with 71 for a grand total of 3,590. There are currently 273 active cases and seven deaths.
In early October, the New York Times, reported the Rexburg micropolitan area had the second-greatest COVID-19 outbreak in the entire country.
The county has been under a health district mandate since Sept. 14 that requires people to wear a face-covering when the person is in a public place and other non-household members are present and physical distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained.
“I think the effort here is to have something that helps enforce theirs (EIPH’s mandate),” Merrill said. “I think we need to try to establish some law, an order, according to the law that we already have in place.”
Outside of the building, Jenny Porter, a local small-business owner, led a protest where about 100 people gathered. She says nobody should take people’s liberties, freedoms or rights away, saying that a mask mandate does exactly that.
“I am a concerned citizen is all. I feel like we’re not being heard. I want to be heard. This is starting to make me mad,” she said before the meeting. “It’s affecting my life, and I don’t think it’s right for somebody else to tell me how to manage my own health (or) how to run my business. It’s not American.”
Ron Nate, a state Legislature representative-elect, was also in attendance at the protest. He said the city posts COVID-19 cases and deaths for community members to see, but what isn’t shared with the community are the “problems that are caused by the bad policy that comes from this.”
“All the businesses they’ve closed, all the jobs lost, all the poverty, all the mental disorders … the psychological effects of wearing a mask and the health effects of wearing a mask, we don’t see all of those group’s statistics,” he told EastIdahoNews.com. “They seem to be focused on two numbers, and if those aren’t exactly right, they have no problem taking away all sorts of liberties. That’s what we’re here fighting against.”
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Here’s more of the meeting. Protestors interrupt at some points before the mask mandate starts around 1:30.