Inslee sets new limits to combat virus spread

Jay Inslee

JEERS ... to Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin of Idaho Falls.

Shortly after Gov. Brad Little moved Idaho’s COVID-19 response back to Stage 3 this week, McGeachin appeared in an Idaho Freedom Foundation video blasting the governor.

McGeachin has played politics with this health crisis before. But why proceed from political gamemanship to sacrilege?

Depicted in a van, McGeachin begins:

“We recognize that all of us are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights. ...”

At this point, she mimics President Donald Trump by employing a copy of the Holy Bible as a political prop.

“Among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring and possessing and protecting property ...”

With the scriptures in her left hand and a semi-automatic handgun in her right, she concludes: “And pursuing happiness and securing safety.”

Then she places that handgun on top of the Bible.

It’s not the Bible that speaks of “unalienable rights.” That’s the Declaration of Independence.

The Constitution is grounded in property rights.

But wasn’t it the Sermon on the Mount that spoke of the meek inheriting the Earth, of the merciful being shown mercy and the peacemakers becoming the children of God?

The Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. The Bible warns those who live by the sword that they shall die by the sword.

Even McGeachin can’t be that confused.

This deliberate provocation tells you how far she is willing to go just to endear herself with the political fringe.

That anyone, much less an elected member of the government, could engage in such tasteless behavior is a shock to the collective conscience.

JEERS ... to Gov. Little.

It’s bad enough that he has continued to abdicate his responsibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. But spare us the sermonizing.

For the sake of argument, say Idaho was facing massive forest fires.

Or assume the state had suffered something analogous to the 1976 Teton Dam failure.

Little would educate the public about what’s happening.

He’d summon the resources.

He’d organize government from top to bottom.

He’d take extraordinary steps to respond.

But when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor has been remarkably passive. Rather than follow the best medical advice available — and the lead of his fellow governors — Little has refused to impose a statewide universal face mask mandate.

Some parts of Idaho have filled the void — notably the communities under the charge of the central and eastern Idaho health districts.

Others have not.

And for them, the governor had these words Monday: “The eventual shift to a localized approach was the right thing to do, but it’s not worked as well as it should, because the virus is relentless, and in some parts of the state, there simply has been insufficient efforts to protect lives.”

Insufficient efforts?

Tell that to Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert, whose community’s masking ordinance was flouted by members of Christ Church.

Tell that to White Pine School Board Chairman Aaron Proctor, who is facing a recall election next week because he had the temerity to support face mask and social distancing policies.

Tell that to the Lewiston City Council, whose face mask “advisory order” was still too much for a vocal minority.

If the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus were here, he’d be the first to remind Little that leadership is not a spectator sport.

CHEERS ... to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Face masks work. Just look at the results.

Between June 26 and July 7, Inslee incrementally imposed both a mandate and penalties — including a misdemeanor conviction for individuals and the threat of closure for any business that fails to comply.

As a result, Washington’s seven-day average infection rate is 8.8 per 100,000.

Without a statewide universal mask mandate, Idaho’s seven-day average infection rate is 51 per 100,000 — more than five times higher.

It’s no anomaly.

Since July 13, Oregon has been under a face mask mandate. Its seven-day average infection rate is 9.1 per 100,000.

Nevada’s mandate took effect on June 26. That state reports a seven-day average infection rate of 26.3 per 100,000 — almost half that of Idaho’s.

But as Inslee noted, Washington is not immune from Idaho’s choices. As the Gem State’s hospitals are filling up, more patients will be transferred to medical facilities in Inslee’s state.

“I don’t want to sound too judgmental but in a sense I am,” he said. “Every death in Spokane County, when thinking it might’ve come from Idaho when Idaho is not joining us in wearing masks — that’s very painful to me.”

He got indignant about the Panhandle Health District Board rescinding its mask mandate in Kootenai County.

“Instead of increasing the common sense measures that we know work to reduce the pandemic, they went backwards and removed the mask mandate. I heard a comment, he says he just didn’t think COVID was real,” Inslee said. “I mean, what planet are they living on?”

CHEERS ... to Lewiston City Councilors John Bradbury and Bob Blakey.

When it comes to face masks, the lack of a mandate makes Lewiston an outlier. Moscow has a city mandate while the communities of eastern Washington follow a statewide policy.

As of Sunday, Nez Perce County set a new record for a seven-day average — 64.7 per 100,000 — compared to Latah County, where the rate was 37 per 100,000 on the same day.

The closest Lewiston came to any policy was an advisory order that died for lack of support during a second vote a month ago.

Since then Blakey says he’ll support Bradbury’s next effort to impose a mandate. He also asked City Manager Alan Nygaard to find common ground with public health, county and school officials.

It may be an uphill fight, but at least they’re giving the city council another chance to do the right thing. — M.T.

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