America is dialing 911, but operators are ignoring the deafening cacophony.

Idaho and the U.S. ought to be past arguing whether facemasks slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. Yet, they are mired in argument and inaction, and leaving Americans on their own to face catastrophic consequences ahead.

Gov. Brad Little won’t stand up to a handful of anti-mask extremists by issuing a statewide facemask order, instead deferring to local health districts and local elected officials. That means the virus can spread at will within regions like central Idaho, in which only Blaine County requires masks.

The U.S. has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, and cases are growing rapidly, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. More Americans have died of COVID than any other nationality in the world.

Idaho topped its daily record this week with 727 new cases on Wednesday, which brought the state’s total to 12,445.

Even though Twin Falls is a hot spot where masks are scarcer than shade, the South Central Public Health District declined to do any more than “advise” using them. That kind of advice is as valuable and effective as wet Kleenex.

Idaho summers are short. Leaders should be using this one to help people figure out how to go about their lives, run businesses, go to work, educate kids and recreate when the weather cools. The end of warm days will drive people indoors to breeding grounds for coronavirus.

Instead, leaders dissemble and delay while the viral scourge grows. If they don’t answer the 911 calls soon, their legacy will be the shame of an American Age of Carnage when they stood frozen and mute while citizens needlessly sickened and died, and the economy crumbled.

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