Pocatello mayor masks (copy)

Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad discusses the city’s mask mandate in this 2020 photo.

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POCATELLO — The city’s ordinance requiring face coverings to be worn in public will remain in place at least through April 1.

The City Council voted on Thursday to continue the policy, with plans to revisit it during the April meeting.

The council has directed its staff to have a draft ordinance at the ready to repeal the face covering mandate in case circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic improve to the point that the policy is no longer necessary.

An official with the Pocatello Police Department said there’s no record in the police database of any citations issued under the ordinance to date, and the main benefit of having it is that it gives officers “another tool” to aid local businesses struggling with customers who refuse to wear a mask.

The ordinance reads, “Every person shall, when in any indoor or outdoor public place, completely cover their nose and mouth when members of the public are physically present for otherwise unprotected social interaction with persons other than household members.”

It grants exceptions for children under 5, people who cannot medically tolerate wearing a mask, people who have trouble hearing and must read lips for communication, people for whom a face covering would pose a workplace risk, people who are obtaining a service related to the face or head and must temporarily remove a face covering, people in public places in which maintaining social distance is possible, people who are incarcerated, people who are eating or drinking in a restaurant and people working out at a gym with a plan approved by public health officials.

The council implemented the ordinance last November, periodically placing it up for review. The council had previously voted to keep it in place on Feb. 18, scheduling a review of the policy for the Thursday meeting.

Also during the meeting, the City Council voted to accept the donation of a bus from the Blackfoot Senior Citizens Center. The center reportedly has other transportation options available and wasn’t using the bus — a 2008 Ford Starcraft with only 60,000 miles on the odometer.

Skyler Beebe, the city’s public transportation director, said the bus will replace a 2010 bus the city has been using with 350,000 miles on it.

“It will be very helpful for us,” Beebe said.

Beebe said the center’s bus was federally funded, and it made sense to donate it to Pocatello, which has a rural route offering public transportation to seniors in Blackfoot.