At least a hundred people gathered outside the Idaho Capitol on Saturday burning masks in a demonstration against efforts to limit infections and deaths caused by COVID-19, the Associated Press reported.
A viral video showed dozens of people also circled around a cooking pot and burning masks in it outside the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
A woman in the video who had just burned copies of Gov. Brad Little’s COVID-19 ”Stay Healthy” orders told the crowd, “Burn your masks, guys!” before a group of a few kids tossed their masks into the smoking pot.
“How do we feel about the state orders from the governor?” the woman asks the crowd, who responds with booing. “Sorry Little, you’re a tyrant, not a king.”
At the Capitol, similar videos on social media showed adults encouraging children to toss masks into a fire. Visitors to the Capitol are asked but not required to wear masks, and few Republican lawmakers wear them, the AP reported.
Republican Rep. Karey Hanks on Wednesday introduced legislation to prohibit mask mandates in Idaho, saying she had done research “on the physical and emotional and even mental injuries to our bodies, and possibly even our souls, as healthy individuals are required to wear these masks.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites studies that have shown cloth masks not only effectively block most large respiratory droplets, but also fine droplets called aerosols, which can carry the virus. Studies show wearing a mask prevents the wearer from infecting others and contracting the virus themselves, according to the CDC.
Republican Little has never issued a statewide mask mandate, but seven counties and 11 cities have such mandates in place in Idaho, the AP reported.
In Coeur d’Alene, the mask-burning event is not the first act of resistance to masking. In October, the Panhandle Health District board rescinded its mandate that people in Kootenai County wear masks in public spaces on the same day 100 new cases were reported and the local hospital was full.
Though health experts said the mask mandate had reduced cases, board member Glen Bailey moved to rescind the mandate, saying, “I agree we have a problem with this virus, but at the same time, I object to the mandate the board passed because it restricts people’s right of choice.”
More than 170,000 Idaho residents have been infected with the virus and about 1,900 have died. The Panhandle Health District reports 22,224 people have been infected in Kootenai County and 264 have died.
The case rate in Kootenai County is about double the case rate across the Washington border in Spokane County, where a mask mandate has been continuously in place.
Still, Spokane has seen its resistance. At a July anti-mask rally outside the former county health officer’s home, a group of many Idaho residents spoke into a megaphone . One poster called masking a “satanic ritual.” Later that month, anti-mask billboards went up around Spokane.
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