Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

We are done listening to wrong message from Idaho’s pro-virus, anti-mask protesters

Dec. 8

Idaho Statesman

The behavior of the anti-mask protesters has become unacceptable.

Protesters showed up at the houses of Central District Health board members Diana Lachiondo and Dr. Ted Epperly, and in Lachiondo’s case when she wasn’t home and her 12-year-old son was home alone.

Anyone who is a parent could identify with the terror in Lachiondo’s voice as she tearfully told the board that she had to leave because protesters were at her house with her son there by himself.

Protesters also showed up in the hundreds at the Central District Health office to protest any and all actions that might be taken by board members, who had been scheduled to vote on a new health order mandating masks, limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people, and limiting visits to correctional facilities and long-term care facilities. It allowed high school sports to continue and basically laid out some pretty loose rules for restaurants, bars and nightclubs while keeping them open.

Many reasonable people are convinced that the health order actually wouldn’t have done nearly enough to slow the spread of coronavirus. And yet, here were the anti-maskers, who apparently just won’t be happy unless we have absolutely no regulations at all. They won’t stop their faux-patriot temper tantrum unless we have complete and unfettered spread of coronavirus in the community. Even more than anti-mask, they really seem to be pro-virus.

Out of safety concerns, the Boise police chief and mayor asked the health district to shut down the meeting. Bravo, anti-maskers, you got what you wanted, shutting down any kind of debate or discussion. We’re not convinced that authorities did the right thing by kowtowing to protesters and essentially allowing them to shut down government business — which, by the way, they cheered when they heard the meeting was canceled.

To those pro-virus, anti-mask protesters: We hear you. We’ve heard you. We’ve been hearing you loud and clear for the past nine months.

It’s not that your message isn’t being heard. It’s that your message is dead wrong.

And that’s why the adults in the room aren’t listening to you. They shouldn’t listen to you. Your screeds about gut health and vitamin C, masks causing low oxygen, misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and comorbidities, are just nonsense.

Just because an elected body comes to a decision that you disagree with does not mean that you have a right to bully and intimidate them until they finally give into your tactics and make a bad decision for the rest of us.

Many of you like to talk about how the United States is a republic and not a democracy. That’s correct. In a democracy, we’d all get together in the parking lot, like you’re doing, and take a popular vote for every decision made. But we’re not a democracy like that. We’re a democratic republic, as so many of you like to point out. In a republic, laws are made by representatives who are charged with making thoughtful decisions based on facts and listening to the experts so that they can come to a decision that protects public health.

It’s not mob rule, which is what you’ve turned this into.

Public officials sometimes make decisions that you may not agree with. (Now you know how the Democrats feel every January when they come to the Capitol.) That does not give you the right to intimidate them until they rule in your favor.

And showing up at people’s houses to “protest” is beyond the pale. It’s deplorable, and it certainly doesn’t win anyone over to your side of the argument. In fact, your irresponsible and infantile behavior only proves that the adults in the room should ignore you. Shouting and spitting in a big group without any masks shows that you’re not responsible enough and not worthy to help make decisions for the health of our community. Your actions, in fact, prove why we need a mask mandate.

You’ve had your say. You sent in your emails and you’ve posted your tirades on social media. Board members hear you. Now let them make the right decision for the good of public health and for the sustainability of our health care system.

Gov. Brad Little, this is what happens when you avoid tough calls and leave major decisions — decisions that you and your team should be making — to these local boards. We’ve seen it at the district health level and the school board level. Your strategy of pushing decisions off on someone else has led to this, and it’s clearly not working.

At the very least, you need to condemn these actions as forcefully as you can, and you need to tell these pro-virus, anti-mask protesters that they need to abide by the process and heed the decisions made by the people put in this difficult situation, not bully and threaten them.

We can’t even hold a virtual meeting safely. This is not governing. Who would even want to hold public office after this kind of display?


We’ve heard you. Your message is wrong, and no amount of foot-stomping, pouting, yelling and temper tantrums is going to make you right.

Online: Idaho Statesman


McGeachin’s undermining is harmful to safety of Idahoans

Dec. 6

Idaho Press

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s undermining of Idaho’s efforts to confront COVID-19 have gone from puzzling to dangerously irresponsible.

In April, McGeachin spent her time criticizing the governor’s actions to mitigate COVID-19’s spread, both in a letter and a rally.

She started May by attending the reopening of a brewery in Kendrick, which went against the governor’s phased reopening plan. The brewery was later fined for violating the emergency order. Later that month, she distributed an opinion piece further encouraging people to defy public health orders.

In August, McGeachin criticized Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home order in a speech given for a rally organized by the John Birch Society in Twin Falls titled “Freedom is the Cure.”

McGeachin, part of the governor’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee, asked for a delay on a vote to spend federal fund to offset state education budget holdbacks in September. She then skipped the vote entirely. Based on a Twitter post from the day of the vote, she appeared to attend a fundraiser headlined by Donald Trump Jr. in Stanley, according to IdahoEdNews.

To cap off a chaotic year, McGeachin touted a proposal last month to purchase “walk-through disinfectant tunnels” using the state’s CARES Act funds. Multiple studies have said “disinfection tunnels” or “sanitization tunnels” are dangerous and useless for preventing the spread of COVID-19, which spreads through exhaled and inhaled droplets, according to reporting from the Idaho Press. She also made several suggestions on nurses and staffing, most of which we found either unhelpful or had already been implemented by the state.

We have scratched our heads all year at McGeachin’s actions, but the promotion of debunked science at the expense of people’s health? Well, that’s crossing the line.

“Being a loose cannon doesn’t get you anywhere. I’m all about solving problems, and that’s why I got into this race. I care about our state,” McGeachin said just before her election in 2018

A loose cannon is defined as a “dangerously uncontrollable person or thing,” according to Merriam Webster. In the Urban Dictionary, a glossary for pop-culture terms, loose cannon is described as “a person lacking prudence or insight, whose actions and/or speech jeopardizes the safety of people in their proximity or under their authority.

By neglecting her responsibility, and contradicting the governor, McGeachin has created a tense work environment within Idaho’s executive branch. At one point during the pandemic, the top two leaders of Idaho’s executive branch went weeks without speaking. That is unacceptable during normal times, and even more senseless during a time of crisis. We can all agree that government works best when our leaders operate together in good faith. If Little and McGeachin can’t even speak, we doubt there’s much problem-solving happening.

Idaho is rarely spoken about on a national scale. So for McGeachin to be making national news for her disinfectant tunnel proposal is embarrassing, and makes Idaho look like a backward, uneducated state.

It’s also difficult to watch her wield her authority in a way that takes advantage of people’s fears and desire to return to a more normal society. We understand how desperate people are for answers, and how appealing her brand is to many Idahoans. If there were a quick fix, we would have found it already. We would be on to the next issue, COVID-19 in the rearview mirror.

If McGeachin was being a responsible civil servant, she would be educating herself far more than she is. She would be a student of the problem and search for fact-based information from knowledgeable experts, then introduce solutions using her statewide platform. If she had followed those steps, she wouldn’t be advocating spending millions on junk science or suggesting changes to nursing licensure that were implemented months ago by Little.

Online: Idaho Press


Failure describes Idaho’s COVID-19 response

Dec. 10

The Lewiston Tribune

During the weekend, the Associated Press used a real word to describe Idaho’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The word was failure.

That’s no opinion. It’s a statement of fact.

Here’s what failure looks like:

- By its own numbers, the state says its positivity index — the proportion of people who test positive for COVID-19 — reached 19.2 percent between Nov. 15 and Nov. 21. Anything more than 5 percent means the virus is spreading out of control — and Idaho has not been at 5 percent since mid-June.

Johns Hopkins University uses a different model, which at one point this week reported the Gem State had the nation’s highest positivity rate — with South Dakota and Kansas not far behind — and nearly 10 times greater than Washington state.

- The state’s seven-day moving average of new infectins per 100,000 population stood at 64.8 — down from the most recent peak of mid-November but still well above the summer surge. But how reliable are those numbers? It’s anyone’s guess because the health care system is overwhelmed and the state is weeks behind on contact tracing.

- Plagued by a finite number of overworked staff, Idaho’s health care system is already rationing treatment — and is on the verge of instituting formal crisis care standards that will decide who will get life-saving treatment — or not — based on the individual’s likelihood of recovery.

“We start by getting a list from the respiratory therapists of who on the wards is on high-flow oxygen, the most support we can provide short of intubation,” Dr. Ken Krell of Idaho Falls, a member of the State of Idaho Disaster Medical Advisory Committee, told the Eastern Idaho Public Health Board. “We take the list and go see each of those patients on the ward, try to get a sense of who is likely to crash and transport them to the ICU before they need emergent intubation on the ward. But it’s a judgment. There aren’t ICU beds for everyone who is worrisome, so we try to estimate who is most likely to crash. And we get it wrong sometimes.”

- The state is awash with non-compliance, whether it’s refusing to wear face masks, practice social distancing or engaging in social gatherings. It’s getting pushback from its neighbors with tighter restrictions, notably Washington, which has about half the Gem State’s per capita average of new infections. As of this week, Idaho became a regional outlier. With Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s order on Monday, Idaho is surrounded by states operating under face mask mandates and other restrictions.

Blame the Trump administration’s inadequate response for the pandemic surging everywhere and all at once, but why is it so much worse in Idaho?

If persuasion had worked. Gov. Brad Little could claim some success in holding the infection in check.

Nor can anyone point to delegating the decision-making to regional health districts, cities, counties or school districts as a winning formula. The virus is equally harsh on communities large and small — many of which have limited health care resources.

The result is a patchwork scheme. Where local officials are willing to stand up to pressure, some preventive steps have been taken. Where they’re not — as was the case Tuesday when a mob of hundreds intimidated the Central Health District board in Boise and carried the protests to the homes of district board members — admonitions to practice caution go unheeded.

What sounded harsh and undiplomatic when Krell testified last week has now, tragically, acquired the ring of authenticity: These COVID-19 deniers are “the lunatic, delusional fringe ... a small faction of the population who either cannot, or will not, see the consequence of their reckless, life-endangering behavior.”

By encouraging them, high-profile leaders such as Ammon Bundy of Emmett, Diego Rodriguez of Boise, Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin of Idaho Falls and Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman of Boise bear responsibility for the calamity, too. But interference that resorts to fear tactics marks the boundary of their influence. They were not elected governor.

Little remains unwilling to stand up to them. And it’s on his watch this ongoing failure is metastasizing.

Online: The Lewiston Tribune