Gov. Brad Little last week moved the state back to Stage 3 of the state’s reopening plan, a nod to the state’s growing coronavirus crisis that soon could overwhelm hospital and health care capacity.
The differences between Stage 4 and Stage 3 are minimal, though, and without a statewide mask mandate and without any sort of enforcement, very little is likely to change. We make yet another call for a statewide mask mandate in Idaho. Medical professionals at Little’s press conference were begging people to wear masks, saying it’s the single-most effective thing we can do, yet the governor still won’t pull the trigger.
The main difference in Stage 3 is that large-scale events that we have been seeing at the Ford Idaho Center and elsewhere, such as the recent “Back the Blue’’ event and the “Freakshow of Amateur Wrestling,’’ featuring 3,500 athletes, would be prohibited.
Under Stage 3, indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people or less. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 percent capacity. Long-term care facilities must put a mask mandate in place for visitors. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs must operate with seating only.
Gov. Little on Monday continued to double down on his request for personal responsibility and his reliance on “localized approach,’’ relying on local public health districts to do the right things.
“The eventual shift to localized approach was the right thing to do,’’ Little said Monday. “But it’s not worked as well as it should, because the virus is relentless. And in some parts of the state, there simply has been insufficient efforts to protect lives, local public health boards and local elected officials have the authority under Idaho law to implement and enforce measures to reduce COVID transmission in their communities.’’
Some officials are taking it seriously and are doing the right thing, but many are not.
Southwest District Health failed to require masks. Panhandle Health District board members voted, 4-3, to rescind a mask mandate for Kootenai County, which saw 112 new cases Friday and another 108 new cases Saturday of that same week. One board member even said he doubted that coronavirus was the cause that their local hospital is at 99 percent capacity, a sure sign that the localized approach isn’t working.
Still, Little is sticking with that strategy, even though many districts have proved to be not up to the task.
Bear in mind that we are one state, and what happens in one part of the state affects other parts. For example, patients are being transferred from Twin Falls to Boise hospitals because of the surge of cases there.
Little is also continuing to rely on the good graces of all Idahoans.
“I still maintain the best defense against this aggressive and damaging virus is personal responsibility in our actions,’’ Little said Monday. “Wear a mask. Watch your distance, wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick and get a flu shot. We Idahoans share pride in our long history of rallying together in times of crisis. My fellow Idahoans, I ask each of you to recommit yourselves to fighting this ugly disease, to protecting your loved ones and neighbors, to keeping Idaho strong. Together we can do this.’’
Moving Idaho back to Stage 3, in reality, does very little, and by continuing to simply rely on Idahoans to “do the right thing,’’ which many have shown they are not willing to do, why should we expect any better results?
The Idaho Statesman published this editorial on Oct. 27.