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Twin Falls City Council tables mask mandate; here's what's next

Posted at 10:23 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 11:20:26-05

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — After nearly five hours of public testimony and heated discussions, the Twin Falls City Council ultimately decided to indefinitely table the proposed mask mandate in a six-to-one vote.

The council members felt it was best not to pass the ordinance because it didn't meet their goal of slowing the spread of COVID, especially due to exemptions that wouldn't make the order as effective.

"I feel like the draft of the ordinance we had in front of us did not get to the goal that we had which was to increase the number of people who are using masking as part of the strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we made it all the way to discussing the ordinance, I wasn't sure that we were going to be able to deal with exemptions in a way that helped us reach the goal," says Twin Falls City Councilor Shawn Barigar.

After numerous pleas to impose some type of ordinance in the city, St. Luke's Magic Valley was disheartened after hearing the proposed mandate was turned down.

"I am a bit disappointed that we didn't come out with an effective mandate, but I'm also really disappointed in how divisive this is for our community," says Arlen Blaylock, Chief Operating and Chief Nursing Officer for St. Luke's. "In our opinion, masks work, distancing works, washing hands, and whatever we can do to get to the point where we can help our community. That's what we would like to do."

While the ordinance didn't move forward, the city is looking for alternative options to get people to use safety protocols. Council members hope after Monday's heated discussions, people can find a middle ground to agree on and identify ways to inform, educate, and implement strategies to slow the spread of the virus.

"When we find that common ground and find whatever that strategy is, it could be everything from full-on media advertising campaigns to a tip sheet on how to talk to your friend who maybe disagrees with you about what you can find common ground on," said Barigar.

The city is also discussing strategies and working with other cities and municipalities to see what can be done to help flatten the curve in the Magic Valley.

St. Luke's is also up for the challenge to encourage everyone to work together to slow the spread of the virus.

"We need many, many things to come together. Many, many people to come together. Many, many different viewpoints to come together to address this solution. St. Luke's is willing to step up and join that effort, and to be honest, I'm excited to actually do that," said Blaylock.