Idaho is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. In recent years, that has been true for some population and economic measures. Right now, it also applies to COVID-19.

A per-capita case analysis of case numbers shows that of all the metro areas in the country, Lewiston ranks within the top 10. (Its 10 cases and smallish overall population put it there.) The state overall also is in the top 10 when it comes to rate of growth. This week, Idaho has shot well past the number of cases in Oregon, which has more than twice the population as and saw cases earlier than Idaho. And that’s despite Oregon testing twice as many people as in Idaho.

On March 24, the finance site Wallet Hub ranked Idaho 48th among the 50 states and District of Columbia for taking aggressive steps against COVID-19. That was just before Gov. Brad Little did start taking more aggressive steps, including a stay at home order.

Idaho being Idaho, well …

Quick on the heels of Little’s order, Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation delivered an op-ed complaining that “before a single death was logged in Idaho, Little bowed to the opinion of fear-mongering newspaper editorialists, the likes of Rachel Maddow, and the health ‘experts’ who want to protect us to death. Little signed a confusing order this week that forces all Idahoans to stay at home. You can leave, but first you need to decipher about 22 pages of state and federal documents to conclude whether your job or activity is deemed essential or non-essential.”

Tommy Ahlquist, the developer and physician who ran for governor (as a Republican) a couple of years ago, tweeted back at Hoffman, “Part of the (stay-at-home) order should have been a requirement for IFF freedom fighters to wear a purple bandana into the ER so they can be triaged appropriately. ... Wide open to hear your alternatives for getting through this one. I’ve been on the phone all morning with ER docs around the country. Your push back on the order is not helping.”

The IFF tweeted back (apparently in trying to ease off), “We can agree to disagree on this one.”

Ahlquist wasn’t having it: “We can agree to disagree, but using this crisis to score political points while putting my brothers/sisters in the health care trenches at risk is not right.”

Another approach. In her recent email update, state Rep. Heather Scott said “This path chosen by Idaho’s Executive Branch is unconstitutional, un-American, and NOT the Idaho way.”

There’s been some question about whether the governor has the authority to issue the order; he does, according to the Idaho Constitution and state statute 46-601.

The argument after that boils down to: “I gotta right.” In this case: “I gotta right” to put other people’s lives at risk. It’s the same argument you could imagine coming from a drunk driver who contends his right to get behind the wheel of his car is greater than another person’s right to live.

The fear-mongering — added to over the last week by figures like Ammon Bundy — has been running heavily in the “I gotta right” direction.

Most of us understand that some freedoms may be curtailed under extreme conditions. Your stroll down the sidewalk might be interrupted if police or fire agencies seal off a location to cope with a hazmat event. It’s one thing to impose restrictions to cope with critical conditions, and another to default to it as a regular practice.

If we can agree that special circumstances call for special reactions — the U.S. Constitution suggests as much when it specifically allows for suspending habeas corpus under certain emergency conditions — then we might ask simply: Is what we have now an emergency?

Idaho’s first case of COVID-19 was reported on March 13. A week later, there were 42 cases. The week after that, 265. Yesterday, 776. As I write this on April 2, 891.

The first Idaho death from COVID-19 was reported on March 26. Right now: nine.

Yeah, this really does look like an emergency.

Stapilus is a former Idaho newspaper reporter and editor who blogs at www.ridenbaugh.com. His email address is stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

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