By Lyndsie Kiebert
Idaho Gov. Brad Little presented a strong stance against so-called “vaccine passports” during a live announcement April 7, sharing that he’d be signing an executive order “banning any state of Idaho governmental entity from requiring … proof of COVID-19 vaccination for citizens to receive public services or access facilities.”
Little emphasized that while the vaccine is “safe and effective,” it should be an Idahoan’s “choice to receive the vaccine” against COVID-19.
“Vaccine passports create different classes of citizens,” Little stated in a media release. “Vaccine passports restrict the free flow of commerce during a time when life and the economy are returning to normal. Vaccine passports threaten individual freedom and patient privacy.”
While some states have floated the idea, Little’s executive order makes the concept of vaccine passports impossible in the public sector in Idaho. Read the entire order at gov.idaho.gov/executive-orders.
As of April 7, 497,589 Idahoans have received at least one dose of any of the three COVID-19 vaccines available for use, including 12,566 Bonner County residents.
On April 5, the state opened vaccine appointments to all residents over the age of 16. Anyone is able to pre-register for a vaccine at covidvaccine.idaho.gov, and a local provider will contact you when an appointment is available. Those in North Idaho who lack internet access or need assistance scheduling their appointment can call the Panhandle Health District’s hotline at 877-415-5225.
Availability of the vaccine was a major factor for the Lake Pend Oreille School District Board of Trustees when they voted March 23 to shift the face covering policy in schools from “requiring” masks to “recommending” them.
Masks will be optional for students, staff and visitors in LPOSD facilities starting Monday, April 12 — the day students return from Spring Break. The decision prompted a student-led petition to be circulated online, asking people to sign on and push back against the policy change and keep masks required at Sandpoint High School.
The petition’s student author argues that eliminating the mask requirement immediately following Spring Break is “irresponsible,” considering that many families travel during vacation.
“Removing this mask mandate does not only create unsafe conditions, it also makes things like prom and graduation more hard to justify and plan,” the petition reads. “Our seniors deserve a safe prom and graduation especially after both of our upperclassmen years have been affected by the devastating arrival of COVID-19.”
The petition had garnered 626 signatures as of April 7, with a goal set at 1,000 signatures.
LPOSD trustees did not reply to requests for comment on the petition. Superintendent Tom Albertson, who is not a voting board member and told the Reader he could not speak for the board, reiterated that the board considers local COVID-19 case numbers within Bonner County and the schools when making policy decisions. When they voted to loosen the mask rule, that data was trending downward.
“Please note that from the beginning Gov. Little did not put a statewide mask mandate but still recommends people wear them; the health district was clear that they are only an advisory role to school districts, putting all decision making at the local level with school boards, a difficult position to be in,” he wrote in an April 6 email, also noting that the Panhandle Health District recently lifted its multi-county mask mandate.
Albertson also shared that if a student tests positive for COVID-19 in an LPOSD school, nursing staff will still consider mask usage when determining who will need to quarantine. Under current district policy, if two students are interacting for more than 15 minutes within six feet of one another and one tests positive, the masked close contact would not be required to quarantine.
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