When the Twin Falls City Council rejected a mask mandate Monday night, the difference between that city and most cities in Blaine County could not have been starker.

Cities in Blaine County, with the exception of Carey, have required masks for months to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although it’s nothing to crow about, the seven-day moving average incidence rate here is less than half of Twin Falls County’s, which is the highest in the state.

Six of seven council members voted to table an ordinance that would have required face coverings in public places to reduce the infection rate.

A packed audience sat elbow to elbow before the council with few wearing masks—a coronavirus super-spreader event for sure. The meeting came on the heels of an anti-mask rally in downtown.

The council rejected masks despite the fact that St. Luke’s Magic Valley, the city’s only hospital, was full earlier this week and unable to accept patients from other hospitals. It is not accepting most pediatric cases. It ignored the fact that Twin Falls County coronavirus cases are at the record level of 120 per day.

Hospital representatives told the council that the hospital’s medical staff is overwhelmed and begged the council to enact the ordinance. One of the city’s largest food processing companies did the same.

The council’s decision was a slap in the face to the medical community that continues to inform the public that the best weapon against the virus is a simple face mask. It repudiated scientific evidence that masks and hand washing can save thousands of lives.

It ignored the reality that dealing with vast numbers of coronavirus patients can lead to the restriction or elimination of care for other patients with other serious conditions. It ignored the fact that people will keep kids out of school and stop spending in local businesses if it is not safe to do so.

Mask opponents talked about protecting their so-called right to refuse to wear a mask, but failed to acknowledge the right of medical workers to be safe. They refused to recognize the deadly harm their refusal inflicts on fellow citizens.

It apparently did not occur to council members that medical staff could become so infected that the hospital would have to close. Or, they simply did not care.

Then what?

St. Luke’s Wood River Hospital was forced to close in the spring when Blaine County was the first in the state with high infection rates. Luckily, hospitals in Twin Falls and Boise had room for COVID-19 patients. That capacity is shrinking fast.

Twin Falls should be ashamed. The decision was cruel and cowardly. It will do lasting harm to thousands of people.

“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to editorialboard@mtexpress.com.

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