Just as the threat of the coronavirus is growing, the Idaho Legislature seems hell-bent on undermining the governor’s ability to deal with it. Republicans in both the Senate and House are peddling measures to hamper Governor Little’s authority to rein in the spread of the virus. The governor has correctly called them to account for endangering the health and safety of Idahoans.

The governor has in no way overstepped his bounds. If anything, he has failed to take one action that could have saved lives — imposing a statewide mask mandate. Local governments in many areas of the state have been intimidated out of requiring people to take the simple, considerate, life-saving act of wearing a face mask to impede the spread of the coronavirus. The governor is in a position to do so and he should.

Epidemiologists have told us for months that the easiest and least expensive way to keep the virus from spreading is to filter our breath through a mask. That is because the virus is carried in the exhaled breath of an infected person. By wearing a mask and keeping our distance, we can protect others from getting infected. This is a matter of basic common sense, rather than a complicated scientific mystery. Wouldn’t any public-minded citizen of this great state have the decency to take the simple precaution of covering his or her mouth to keep from infecting and possibly killing innocent others?

The actions Governor Little has taken are essential to keep the virus from spreading and killing. Measures being brought forward in the Legislature — allowing “from one to infinity individuals” to meet together, in the words of Representative Brent Crane; keeping any business from being closed, as advocated by Representative Jason Monks; repealing or placing limits on the governor’s authority to declare an emergency in a pandemic — are a great favor to the coronavirus. Legislative cancellation of the governor’s emergency declaration would jeopardize substantial federal funding needed to fight the virus, while hamstringing the governor’s ability to corral it. If any of these misguided measures is approved, the coronavirus will be the clear winner.

Many in the Legislature seem to be on the side of the virus. Many refuse to wear masks, which plays into the false narrative that the virus is a mere nuisance, much like the common flu. They have made it a political matter, rather than a public health emergency. If they successfully sabotage Idaho’s virus response, many Idahoans will needlessly die.

Already, more than 160,000 Idahoans have been infected with COVID-19 and 1,700 have died. Experts predict that the worst is yet to come. The British variant of the virus is predicted to become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March. It is about 50% more transmissible than the strain currently in the state. Epidemiologists say that this highly contagious variety makes it even more important to follow the common-sense recommendations to mask, distance, avoid crowds and wash hands.

Kudos to the governor for calling out those who contend that the Legislature should be able to mismanage the state’s defense against this deadly virus. It is incumbent upon the business community, medical providers, first responders, educators, contributors to legislative races, concerned citizens who would rather not contract the virus from uncaring individuals and just about everyone else, to let legislators know they are putting us all in danger with their misguided pandemic proposals. If they succeed, the coronavirus will be the big winner in the legislative session.

By JIM JONES/Special To The Press
January 27, 2021 1:00 AM

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