Marty Trillhaase, editorial editor of the Lewiston Tribune and former editorial editor of the Post Register, in an editorial reprinted July 17 in the Post Register astounded me by asserting two very dangerous principles:
1) That Idahoans allow themselves to be intimidated into inaction by the thugs and thieves and terrorist wackos on the far fringe who have committed criminal acts and cowed local and state officials into inaction on COVID-19 containment.
2) That Gov. Brad Little is absolved of responsibility for failing to take decisive action on mandating face masks and scaling back to Stage 3 because the thugs and thieves, attempting to steal our health and lives, are so intimidating.
Come on Marty, this is Idaho; we’re all armed. What’s so special about the ARs owned by the Ammon Bundys, Wayne Hoffmans, Heather Scotts, and Janice McGeachins? The know-nothing, anti-science wing-nuts have the same guns we all own, so we must not allow their lawlessness to prevail.
What Trillhaase did was to legitimize those imbeciles hiding behind their guns by saying Little couldn’t act in taking his constitutionally required leadership role because — well — there were the Bundys and Hoffmans and McGeachins frightening us into submission. Little couldn’t act because they “pilloried the governor at Statehouse rallies” even to the point of disrupting a legitimate legal Southwest Public Health Department meeting on masking, resulting in cancellation of the meeting and thus further delay in taking action at a crisis moment.
Marty, these thugs ought to be in jail, not legitimized for their ability to disrupt and paralyze government from taking action in the most basic government responsibility — that of public safety.
Somehow Trillhaase believes he can get Bundy to “at least set an example by donning a facemask in public.” That’s a picture I want to see, Marty — Bundy with a phallic substitute sidearm, holding an AR with a cute homemade mask on his face. Maybe along with his paramilitary outfit, he could don a T-shirt, admonishing us to “Have a good day.”
Marty, it ain’t gonna happen and the rest of Idaho can’t tolerate inaction while local and state leaders lick the boots of these common gangsters.
Now that I’ve ranted, I have to disclose that Trillhaase is a friend and colleague and co-conspirator in lengthy animated discussions on how to approach public health policy for many years. I just think he got this one wrong.
And getting this wrong will have dire consequences.
Idaho now has the ninth highest per capita rate of coronavirus in the country. The Harvard Global Health Institute statistics on Saturday indicated Idaho now has 30.4 cases per 100,000 population (calculated as new cases per day on a seven-day moving average), placing us in the “red” category. That’s more than the 25 cases per 100,000 threshold at which the institute recommends a repeat lockdown as the only way to contain the outbreak.
Bonneville County, where I live, has increased cases to nine cases per 100,000 just below orange, which is defined as 10 per 100,000. At that point, stay-at-home orders and/or rigorous test and trace programs are advised.
We’ll probably reach that threshold this week.
And we’ve got neither stay-at-home orders or any semblance of a test-and-trace program, since testing capacity has become even worse in turnaround time and availability, and Idaho is absolutely worst in the country for testing per 100,000 population.
Our only hope for averting disaster is a clear, enforceable mandatory masking order at the state level, requiring uniform compliance across the state, combined with a statewide decrease to Stage 3, eliminating the reckless behavior of the invincible young adults in bars, which is partly fueling this surge.
We can only hope that it’s not too late for those measures to work. Dekai Wu, a researcher at University of California-Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute, has devised modeling that shows masking 80 percent of the population will decrease cases by 80 percent — but only if it occurs in the first 50 days of increased cases.
The Harvard Harvard Global Health Institute notes Idaho has nine counties at the “tipping point,” at which time stay-at-home orders are necessary.
And unfortunately we’re not getting the leadership at the state or local level we deserve, despite pleas from, most recently, health care leaders in southwest Idaho as well as here in eastern Idaho, where clear testimony from those of us on the ground failed to convince the health board to institute mandatory masking. And several weeks ago, those of us who are “external” members (not Department of Health and Welfare employees) of the state of Idaho Disaster Medical Advisory Committee wrote to the governor stating a mandatory mask requirement needed to be instituted then. Unfortunately we got no reply. And I, for one, was disappointed by Little’s response at this last news conference. When asked what action could be taken, he dismissively answered, “Wear a mask. Next question,” without owning up to his responsibility to stand up to the thugs and mandate masking.
I believe the majority of Idahoans do not support the intimidation and near-violent resistance of the Bundy-Hoffman-McGeachin bunch. But as independent, stay-out-of-my-face sorts, we haven’t dealt well with pleas for voluntary masking.
The website TheTruthAboutInsurance.com on July 16 indicated Idaho was the third least responsible state in the country, with only 31 percent of Idahoans masking voluntarily, only 22 percent staying home when possible, and with only 4,437 COVID-19 tests percent 100,000 population, the worst testing rate in the country.
Though little is known about the psychology of not masking voluntarily, for some of us it’s likely a little like seat belts. Yeah, we know we need to and, if nudged by law, we’ll comply, especially when we get that annoying beep. Too bad we can’t simulate that beep if we forget to mask.
But Marty, we can’t pander to the terrorist, armed guard, tiny faction that would endanger our citizenry.
Neither can we absolve our leaders — including Little, who has shown real leadership until recently — of the responsibility to protect the public by making the hard decisions, including mandatory masking and backing down to level 3 statewide. Idaho citizens deserve nothing less. And doing less will overwhelm our health care resources, as is already occurring in the southwest part of the state, and result in lost lives with the exponential growth we are now seeing.
And the next time the thugs disrupt a duly authorized, legitimate governmental meeting, let them get the jail time they deserve.
Krell is a critical care specialist at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.