Carey Mayor Randy Patterson said he’s eager for an end to stay-at-home isolation orders today and has no plans to enforce additional recommendations from the state or county to restrict business operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The economic impact on the citizens of Carey has been substantial,” Patterson said. “For many, the only income received since the state order went into effect has been the stimulus check. Many who have filed for unemployment have not received a penny yet.”
Patterson said he’s more concerned about financial despair among Carey residents than risks from the coronavirus.
“We don’t want to become another Montpelier, Idaho,” said Patterson, referring to the southeastern Idaho town in Bear Lake Valley where there have been five confirmed suicides since April 4, with two more under investigation, according to an ABC news station. “I think people there were losing hope.”
Carey, population 637, has seen fewer restrictions on business activity than other cities in Blaine County. Patterson did not join other Blaine County jurisdictions in adopting an order to shut down construction and landscaping from March 27 until April 20. He was the only mayor in Blaine County to not evoke emergency powers to do so, instead allowing these workers to operate under a less restrictive state order. He said he recommended using what he described as “common-sense” safety protocols to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
Ranching, a significant industry in and around Carey, was deemed an “essential” business and allowed to continue under the state order. Patterson said that included purchases of seed, fertilizer, machine parts and other materials that support ranching.
“We have to have food or things get really bad,” he said. “But remember that all businesses are essential to the owners and the people who depend on those jobs to provide for their family.”
Patterson believes the coronavirus led to “government overreach” in the form of business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. He based his opinion on downward revisions to the number of projected deaths in the United States. Recently, the Trump administration’s favored model projecting about 72,000 deaths by Aug. 4, down from a worst-case estimate of 2.2 million earlier this year. (That projection was based on a scenario in which nothing was done to stem the spread of the disease.)
Patterson conceded that the goal of the stay-at-home order was to flatten the total-cases curve and to keep the health-care system from getting overwhelmed with patients, but said current circumstances call for a return to normal.
“As the data has come in, the COVID-19 virus is proving to be less deadly than it was originally projected to be,” he said. “I appreciate all that the health-care workers have gone through during this time. The order did accomplish the task, but the numbers do not support continuing to keep people at home. Those who are elderly or have health issues can continue to do what they feel they need to do to stay safe.”
Patterson said that despite any further orders or recommendations from the Idaho Governor’s Office regarding limited business operations, he will leave it to residents and business owners to decide what to do.
“I won’t enforce the orders,” he said. “I believe and trust that people can use their own good judgment in moving forward and don’t need the government to tell them what to do. I have talked to some business owners and told them that they are good to go on May 1. They will use common sense to provide a safe means of doing business."