Governor Little recently announced that Idaho’s legislature should either postpone the upcoming session, or meet remotely. As a teacher who has been instructing in-person throughout this pandemic, the hypocrisy was palpable.
The thing is, the Governor isn’t wrong. He is completely accurate in his assessment that bringing hundreds of people into tight committee rooms and office spaces is precisely the type of activity his office and our healthcare officials have been cautioning against.
But if the Governor is concluding that conducting the very essential activity of conducting the official business of the Gem State can be postponed or done virtually, how does he continue to justify in-person learning where we bring thousands of students into classrooms each day when that, too, can be virtual? The governor also announced that Idaho’s healthcare systems are now so overwhelmed with COVID patients that our hospitals will begin implementing a crisis standard of care.
I wish the leadership failures stopped there. But if Idaho has proven it is good at anything during an international pandemic, it is demonstrating that our leaders do not have the fortitude to make the hard decisions that could have let Idaho enter this winter without near daily record-setting cases of COVID and hospitalizations.
Because the Governor abdicated his responsibility from making simple and responsible prevention measures like a mask mandate, our local elected officials are feeling the wrath with armed protestors showing up outside their private residences when they discuss simple measures to reduce the spread.
House Speaker Scott Bedke announced he will not require masks in the Statehouse or social distancing of our legislators because, as quoted by Idaho Education News, “Everyone understands the concept of not spreading germs and they are all adults.”
Well I sure wish those adults would start leading. Maybe if our elected leaders started leading by doing things like mandating the use of masks in our state’s facilities we won’t lose hundreds or thousands more Idahoans before enough vaccines arrive to put this dumpster-fire of a year behind us.
At every opportunity our Executive branch has passed the buck onto local leadership because it lacks the backbone to make the hard decisions at the top. Instead of a unified and coordinated statewide response that could have protected (as of the time I am writing this) 121,179 Idahoans from COVID infection, 1,175 Idahoan deaths, and millions of dollars in hospital bills that Idaho’s families must now struggle to pay, our leadership delegated these decisions to local departments. Instead of a statewide prevention strategy, we have 7 public health districts making 7 very different plans with members on some of those boards who continue to question if COVID is even real.
Instead of a unified statewide strategy for educating our children through an international pandemic, we instead have boards for 117 school districts and more than 50 charters schools each writing a different playbook. When the locals don’t like the sensible regulations those health districts and schools make, they turn their anger toward these volunteers including — as in Dr. Diane Lachiando’s case — by protesting outside their private residences while openly carrying firearms, blaring fog horns, and banging drums while children are home.
The governor’s abdication of his responsibility in making those tough decisions has led to the status quo. I very much doubt armed protestors would ever pull these types of schennangins in front of the Governor’s private residence, and if they did I am confident they would quickly be uninvited. It is time for our leadership to step up.