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County Hit by Surge Ends Mask Mandate

One official says it's not COVID-19 that's making people sick anyway
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2020 3:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – A health board in Idaho reacted to the news that the county's main hospital was out of room for new patients by throwing out the local face mask mandate. The Kootenai County board voted 4-3 Thursday to pull back to just a recommendation that residents wear masks to contain the coronavirus, no longer making them subject to fines for not doing so, the Hill reports. One board member said he gives up. "Nobody's wearing the damned mask anyway," Walt Kirby said. "I'm sitting back and watching them catch it and die." A colleague, Allen Banks, told health care professionals at the hearing that there is no such disease, per CBS. "Something's making these people sick, and I'm pretty sure that it's not coronavirus," he said, "so the question that you should be asking is, 'What's making them sick?'"

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Board members are political appointees and aren't required to have medical expertise. The board was told that the Coeur d'Alene hospital, Kootenai Health, is at 99% capacity, even after doubling up patients and adding beds. Other hospitals in the area also stopped taking admissions, and patients might have to be sent to Seattle for care, officials said. The recent surge in new coronavirus cases has hit Idaho, and its hospitals, hard. The state reported 950 new cases Thursday, for a total of 56,600. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has left decisions on restrictions up to local officials. A health official told the board that providers are wearing out. "We're facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue," he said. "This has been going on for seven months—we're tired." (Read more face masks stories.)

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