Rejecting Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s call for legislative intervention in the affairs of Idaho’s health care providers is a good first step.
But what did it mean last week when Senate Republicans announced they want to “meet” with those providers who are insisting staff vaccinate against the coronavirus?
McGeachin — who won’t let anything interfere with her lust for winning the governor’s office — says Primary Health Group, Saint Alphonsus Health System and St. Luke’s Health System should be deprived of the authority to require their employees to be vaccinated. After meeting privately, the GOP Senate majority rebuffed her call for a special legislative session to accomplish her aims.
“As Senate Republicans, we hold firm the belief that state government should not overregulate business, however, individual liberties must be protected to ensure Idahoans are able to work and provide for their families,” the GOP caucus said.
You would hope a group of people elected to look out for the welfare of their constituents could show more spine.
This is no time for parsing.
Not when virtually every person hospitalized with COVID-19 is unvaccinated.
Not when the highly contagious delta variant is emerging as the dominant strain.
Not when Idaho is among the least vaccinated states in the U.S. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36.9 percent of Idaho’s population is fully vaccinated — putting it behind 45 states and ahead of only Louisiana (36.1 percent), Wyoming (36.03 percent), Arkansas (35.39 percent), Mississippi (33.78 percent) and Alabama (33.68).
As former Food and Drug Administrator Scott Gottlieb put it Sunday on “Face the Nation,” anyone who does not have antibodies in his or her system — thanks either to a vaccine or a prior infection — will get sick. It’s that dire.
“ ... Most people will either get vaccinated or have been previously infected or they will get this delta variant,” Gottlieb said. “And for most people who get this delta variant, it’s going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital.”
And not when the trendlines are heading the wrong way. As Idaho Education News’ Kevin Richert reports, last week marked the first time since late May that the state recorded more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. Hospitalization numbers are up to 123 from 82 a week before. The positivity rate is rising as well. For the week ending July 10, 4.3 percent of coronavirus tests were positive — up from 3.6 percent a week before.
Still ahead: colder weather and a new school year in which children younger than 12 will not have access to vaccinations.
So if Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, and his fellow Republicans want to meet with health care providers, here’s what you’d hope they’d say:
l To the providers: “With what’s going on here, it would be utterly unconscionable for health care providers to spread this deadly virus. Thank you for taking steps to protect our constituents and the citizens of our region.”
l To the staff members who are resisting directions to get vaccinated: “That’s your prerogative. However, your personal choice does not extend to the point of endangering patients in your care. Your employers have the right — indeed, a duty — to protect their other employees and the public. That’s why you’re expected to get other vaccinations for measles, the flu or hepatitis. There are a lot of jobs out there if you don’t want this one.”
l To the health care community: “Help us find a way to reach the majority of Idahoans who are for whatever reason vaccine hesitant. The one element common to each of us in the Legislature is a commitment to the best interests of our constituents. How can we use your knowledge to serve them? What’s in your tool box — short of mandatory vaccinations — that can encourage more Idahoans to stave off this emerging COVID-19 surge before it overtakes us?”
Boiled down, the message is this: The virus is the enemy. We need to fight it, not each other. — M.T.