Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Leaders Must Lead During Global Pandemic

Melissa Wintrow

It came as a huge relief when Governor Little announced that the stay-at-home order would continue and that upcoming decisions to “re-open” business should be done based on the best scientific information available. Our current health care systems have not been overwhelmed yet thanks to most Idahoans following CDC guidelines to stay at home, social distance, wash hands, and wear masks in public. If we want to continue to safeguard public health, we must stay vigilant in these actions to reduce the number of severely ill patients and deaths.

This was a difficult decision to make and a difficult one to follow. Lives have been disrupted. People can’t pay the bills, people are sick, socially isolated, and discouraged. However, we must use that Idaho resiliency and discipline to make conservative decisions that will increase public safety and reduce severe illness and death.

It is unsettling to see outright misinformation and incendiary remarks from some of my colleagues across the aisle encouraging Idahoans to defy these orders. A disease knows no political affiliation nor business principles. The Governor’s extension of his order came in the wake of the deadliest day we have seen in our nation, and businesses nationwide are making tough decisions to protect their communities.

I applaud the governor for putting public health first, even at the dismay of many of my conservative colleagues who have been pressuring him to put business first. As one House member noted in a recent email chain that included the Governor, “Capitalism should rule the day… The consumer will make the right choice and the markets will dictate their success.” Should market success come at the expense of the health of everyday citizens? Idahoans are proud of our businesses and pride ourselves on the free market, but this is a public health crisis that we must acknowledge can worsen if we do not use the available scientific information to help make our decisions.  We want to believe that everyone will follow advice and recommendations to keep each other safe, but this is a highly contagious virus that can bring even the strongest among us to our knees.

I love Idaho and I am proud to be a representative in this great state. In one of the scariest times for our state and nation, I’ve seen thousands of Idahoans working together to keep their neighbors safe and secure. In the face of this unprecedented crisis, most Idahoans are responding with resiliency and innovation, which is why I’m saddened when I see a small faction of my colleagues and conservative organizations belittling the situation and the tough decisions that the Governor had to make to safeguard the health and safety of Idahoans.

It is deeply troubling to see slanderous and uncivil social media posts inciting resistance to logical measures to respond to a virus spreading throughout the world. It is painful that the best of Idaho is not being represented in the national media and, once again, a small and divisive group of state and local leaders have lost sight of the health and safety of their constituents over ideology and some far-fetched fear about “big brother.”  The Governor is using the authority granted by the constitution and Idaho state code to enact reasonable orders to safeguard public health. Although we have had our fair share of national embarrassment in the past, I have been incredibly disappointed seeing national headlines showcasing some conservative Idaho officials setting aside reason and science, willing to put their communities’ health and safety in danger instead of listening to reason from medical professionals.

The Governor, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and health professionals across the world have asked people to follow basic steps to reduce the spread of a deadly virus. As public officials, we have a responsibility to encourage and model the recommendations that we are given by people who have knowledge and information. Unfortunately, not all Idaho public officials are being truthful and responsible.

I want to thank the Governor for stepping up and accepting that we have hard decisions to make and looking out for public health and safety is among his most important roles. As a state, we can become a model for the rest of the nation by joining Governor Little in staying home, increasing testing opportunities, and following the recommendations created by the medical community.

We can turn back the negative tide of media headlines and be applauded for making the tough calls, instead of putting lives at risk for political gain. Saving lives doesn’t mean we’re anti-business, either. We are working with the federal government to find ways to support our businesses to weather the storm. Our business right now, as a state, is to keep our people safe.

Melissa Wintrow

Melissa Wintrow

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, represents District 19, is serving her first term in the Idaho Senate after three terms in the House. She sits on the health and welfare, judiciary and rules, and transportation committees. Sen. Wintrow previously taught gender studies courses at Boise State University.

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