This editorial was published by the Post Register of Idaho Falls.
Idaho is beginning the gradual process of reopening. It is a welcome development and one that is only possible because of the success of Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order.
When Little issued his order and for about a week after, the growth of COVID-19 in Idaho was exponential. Between March 25 and April 3, the number of confirmed cases rose from 150 to 668. What if this had continued? With about 4.5 times as many cases each week as the week before, which is the rate of exponential growth the pandemic was following before Gov. Little’s order began to work, this week the state could have had more than 1.2 million cases — about two-thirds of the population.
Instead, as of Friday, we have a little more than 2,000. The suffering Little has so far prevented — an overwhelmed health care system that would leave people dying of pneumonia in their homes, mass graves and an economic apocalypse that would make our current suffering look trivial — is incalculable.
No governor in the history of Idaho can boast of a greater achievement than this.
The governor has made some decisions during his term in office that we’ve strongly disagreed with, and we have not been the least bit shy about stating them. We will continue to criticize him forcefully when we think he’s done the wrong thing. But a success like this should not pass without praise.
Little’s order has been guided by solid science rather than quackery, which has been proliferating more quickly than the virus. And Little has limited himself to using well-established powers that have been used in past emergencies like the Spanish flu pandemic.
Little has taken criticism for this. Some, including some members of the Legislature, have called him a tyrant. Anyone who says such a thing provides proof of nothing except their own ignorance.
In tyrannies, the critics, both misguided and well-founded, disappear. Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, was among the first physicians to raise the global alarm that COVID-19 was transmissible from person to person. He was brought in by the police and told he would be sent to prison if he repeated such statements. He quieted down and later died of the virus. That is what actual tyranny looks like.
The fact that protests continue, that fools continue to scream that Little is some aspirant king, is all the proof you need that he is not. When protesters swarmed a police officer’s home, they were allowed to continue protesting outside it as police who had been dispatched to protect the officer calmly stood there. That is what a state that continues to respect constitutional rights looks like.
There are, however, areas that demand immediate attention. The state’s unemployment system, vital to keeping families afloat while the pandemic ravages the economy, has not been anywhere close to adequate for rising demand. It is vital that this system begin functioning quickly and distributing additional funds appropriated by Congress both to support those who’ve been laid off, furloughed or had their hours cut, and to maintain public support for the restrictions necessary to keep the virus from raging into a large second wave. Little should devote special attention to it.
Your Health Idaho, the state’s insurance exchange, is one of the few that hasn’t suspended its enrollment period and allowed health plans to be purchased at any time. Little should reconsider his decision not to allow those without insurance to purchase it at a time when it is desperately needed.
Former gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist, along with Ball Ventures and numerous other businesses throughout the state, also deserve particular praise. The gradual lifting of the stay-home order is in no small part possible because of their efforts to establish greater testing and tracing capacity in the state, which will allow new outbreaks to be quickly identified and tamped down. Idaho National Laboratory has done its part as well, both by protecting its employees and by offering technology that may help to combat COVID-19.
These people are pulling much more than their weight. Each of us should lend them a hand however we can.