There wasn’t much Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin got right about the COVID-19 pandemic during her virtual press conference last week.
Along with Moscow area business owners, community members and failed Latah County Commission candidate Gabriel Rench, McGeachin:
l Disregarded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice for people to remain home during Thanksgiving. Gatherings of family and friends would spread the infection.
“My whole message is that we’re not meant to be kept away from each other,” McGeachin said. “We are human beings. We are social beings.”
By Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was predicting the holiday travel would create a “surge upon a surge.” Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, was telling people who followed McGeachin’s suggestion to act as if they were infected.
l Complained about “lockdowns” and restrictions.
Gov. Brad Little moved the state’s response back to Stage 2, but no business has been closed. The restaurants are open. So are the bars. Church services are observed. The governor won’t impose a statewide facemask mandate. Meanwhile, the state put the positivity testing rate at 19.4 percent. Anything above 5 percent means the virus is spreading out of control.
l Proposed purchasing disinfection systems for the state Capitol and mobile units that could be located in different corners of the state with nurses to staff the equipment.
“A person can walk through a cube and be disinfected from head to toe, including on the bottom of their feet,” McGeachin said.
As Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press noted, the concept has been thoroughly debunked.
As cited by the National Institutes of Health, the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in June published a study that found “walk-through sanitation gates” didn’t work, possibly caused harm and violated World Health Organization standards: “Fumigation is meant for inanimate objects and surfaces, and it should never be used on people.”
The NIH noted a second study, this one from Royal Society for Public Health, which reported China applied this technique, only to discover it was useless and dangerous.
Russell also reported McGeachin’s plan, which came to $16.8 million, was submitted to Little’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee. A member of that panel, Dr. Carolyn Bridges, a retired CDC official, emailed to CFAC Chairman Alex Adams: “COVID-19 is a respiratory disease spread mostly through coughing, talking, breathing and sneezing of infected persons. This tunnel does nothing for the source of infection, which is the respiratory tract. ... Disinfectants are not meant to be inhaled and can cause damage to the skin and respiratory tract. There is no data to support use in terms of effectiveness.”
l Offered to direct the project to a political ally. Again, Russell’s reporting documented that the source of those products, Xtreme Manufacturing, is owned by Las Vegas hotel owner Don Ahern. On Sept. 13, Ahern hosted a campaign rally for President Donald Trump, which McGeachin attended. The rally violated local COVID-19 restrictions and Ahern was fined.
But McGeachin got this much right: She understands the world according to Donald J. Trump.
When Mexico failed to pay for a “big beautiful wall” along the southern border, nobody cared.
Nor has anyone held Trump to account for his failure during the past four years to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a better, cheaper health care plan.
Long before McGeachin brought it up, the president suggested his own COVID-19 remedies — such as bringing ultraviolet light “inside the body” or injecting disinfectants. Did Trump’s base desert him? No.
It’s not about facts.
It’s not about expertise.
It’s about grievance, frustration and anger. Trump gives voice to those who want to rail against the system.
As conservative columnist David Brooks wrote: “Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mindset. He and his media allies simply ignore the rules of the epistemic regime and have set up a rival trolling regime.”
Says former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele: “What Donald Trump was able to do was give it legitimacy, to give it voice, actual voice, in the body of the president, in the body of the presidency.”
Whether by intuition or calculation, McGeachin has decided to tap into Trump’s base.
So what if she’s wrong on the medical facts? She’s right where it counts — speaking up for those who feel left behind, condescended to or disregarded by the experts or the elites.
Come 2022, when she might challenge Little for governor, a lot of those people will show up to vote in the closed Republican primary election.
What McGeachin is up to here is not going to do Idaho any good.
But she’s certainly looking out for her own political aspirations. — M.T.