The Lewiston City Council didn’t vote Monday on an advisory public health emergency order that would have encouraged people to wear face coverings in public places where it is impossible to stay 6 feet away from others.
City Councilor Bob Blakey called for a vote, but it failed for lack of a second. Councilor John Bradbury said he would have seconded the motion, but the advisory was only in draft form.
The council will revisit the issue after City Manager Alan Nygaard presents a final version that is shared with the public in the coming days.
The measure before the council would have recommended face masks in retail businesses, restaurants, bars and government offices, as well as medical, educational, recreational and art institutions. It also would have applied to public transportation, city of Lewiston parks and other public spaces. It didn’t specify penalties for violations.
It contained a number of exceptions, including for children younger than 5 years old in certain circumstances, persons who are eating and drinking in a restaurant if they are 6 feet from nonhousehold members and for those with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering.
“The risk of widespread community transmission throughout the city of Lewiston impacts the life and health of the public, and imperils public health by the person-to-person spread of COVID-19, and it is, therefore, necessary to reduce opportunities for person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 to combat the spread of the disease,” the order read in part.
The council tabled the order after listening to more than 90 minutes of comments from citizens, most of whom were against face mask requirements.
The testimony was shared during an emotional meeting, where those attending often clapped to show their support for speakers and side discussions occurred about hot button topics like gun rights and abortion.
Those who spoke shared concerns about how mask requirements would infringe on their civil rights, damage the economy, not diminish the rate of transmission and create other health problems.
The handful of those who favored the measure talked about how it could save lives, and that courts have supported restrictions on personal freedom when it served a greater good.
Nygaard said he worked on the order in cooperation with Public Health – Idaho North Central District, first responders and the medical community as the number of COVID-19 cases in Nez Perce County grew Monday by four to a total of 99.
The goal, he said, is to keep people healthy so the economy can stay open.
“We are doing everything we can to keep the numbers as low as possible and not overrun our hospitals,” he said.
Bradbury said he would have liked to have heard more from public health on the issue.
Councilman John Pernsteiner said he couldn’t back the order, partly because of data out of Moscow that show the number of cases has grown without overwhelming the medical system.
Williams may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2261.