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Posts published in December 2020

A misfire, or not?

malloy

A Moscow man is hoping to “depoliticize” the debate over the state’s handling of the coronavirus and has formed a group – called Idaho Strong Community – that aims to bring “a reasonable, truthful and rational” voice to the table.

“We should be focusing on the real problem, which is the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions,” said Gabriel Rench, a 41-year-old Moscow business consultant who in November lost his bid for Latah County commissioner. “In Idaho, over 80 percent of the deaths (from COVID-19) have come from those 70 years of age and older. If you back that up 10 years, over 92 percent of the deaths have come from 60 years and older. If you look at the (Centers for Disease Control) data, 94 percent of those deaths came from those with 2.9 pre-existing conditions.”

He says that Gov. Brad Little is stoking fears by highlighting COVID deaths to younger people. Rench’s message is that lockdowns don’t work, either for businesses or working Idahoans, and there is no justification for mask mandates.

Rench acknowledges that eliminating politics from the conversation may be easier said than done, given the political environment and considering that Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has been a focus of two news conferences put together by Idaho Strong. She has been a lightning rod in Idaho politics for her defiance of Gov. Brad Little’s emergency orders and speculation swirls about her running for Little’s job in 2022.

And there’s no shred of “depoliticizing,” or calming, about Rench’s views about mask mandates and liberals in general.

“The liberals don’t believe in science … a girl can become a boy and a boy can be a girl and play in a girls’ sport,” Rench says. “I don’t have the time of day to listen to a liberal about science.”

His outlook doesn’t make him a popular figure in Moscow, which leans more to the left. But he makes sure the conservative voice is out there with his CrossPolitic television program and podcast. In September, he joined church members in a mass protest of the city’s mask ordinance and was arrested – which drew reactions from President Trump and conservative commentators.

So much for political cleansing.

But the messages coming from participants in his news conferences – which include pastors, business operators, law-enforcement officers and medical professionals – are more measured. They don’t go out of their way to blast the governor, but they clearly oppose his actions.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we do believe in the Constitution and that Idahoans should have the ability to serve one another. We’re in a health crisis, yet we are telling people they cannot provide for their families, which in itself is a health problem,” Rench says.

“Some people in the medical community are afraid to speak up because of the politization of this crisis and the fear of them losing their jobs. There are people who call the police when they see somebody not wearing a mask,” he says. “When the government politicizes a situation, shuts down business, free speeh and the rights of healthy citizens to provide for their families, we are compounding and making the crisis worse.”

Which brings us to McGeachin, who has been at odds with Little since the pandemic hit Idaho. Rench says the lieutenant governor has made it clear that her involvement in the news conferences does not mean she is looking into running for governor. But if she does …

“I’m very open to supporting her,” Rench says. “What we need is strong, conservative, principled leadership in Idaho and Brad Little has been unprincipled in unbelievable ways. What conservative politician thinks they can shut down your business, shut down your means for supporting your family while taking a taxpayer-funded paycheck? That is unprincipled to the highest degree. Every politician that has done that should step down and never return to politics again.”

We’ll see what happens with McGeachin soon enough. In the meantime, Rench will continue building his base with Idaho Strong while having plenty of talking points for his podcasts.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.
 

And so it begins

or xgr

Well, that didn't get off to a hopeful start.

The Oregon Legislature met on Monday for a one-day, quick-and-out session intended to pass emergency pandemic-related legislation which wasn't really all that controversial.

So much for that.

A writer from Portland showed up at the Oregon Statehouse early Monday - "entirely too early to be alive" and reported seeing: "a bunch of far right activists have gathered to protest the state government's decision to close their legislative session to the public today." (The numbers of protesters, estimated at around 100 to 150, were smaller than at many other Statehouse events around the country, but enough to do damage and intimidate.)

The doors to the Statehouse were closed, all right, because of people like them: Or put another way, to avoid turning a legislative session into a mass Covid-19 super-spreader event.

Some of the people outside were carrying high-powered firearms, which was another good reason not to let them in. They also called for arrest of the governor (who, they may not have known, doesn't work out of the Statehouse).

No bullets were filed and, unlike in Idaho, none of the glass doors were broken - the Oregon police succeeded generally in maintaining control of the building - but mace and bear spray was exchanged. Four people were arrested.

Inside, a Republican senator from Roseburg stalked off the floor, tearing off his mask, after declaring he was perfectly willing to wear one but refused to be required to.

Is this the kind of session Oregon has to look forward to in coming months?
 

Time to listen up

rainey

As the Republican Party - from state houses to Congress - sinks slowly into the cowardly, almost loony morass of its own making, we are left to wonder if this nation is about to become ungovernable.

The evidence is everywhere. Look at many GOP governors, from coast to coast, who absolutely refuse to do their sworn duties to confront the COVID-19 deadly consequences head-on. No orders for mask wearing. No orders to shutter businesses like bars and restaurants or other public gathering places. No urgent official expressions for citizens within their jurisdictions to hunker down. And stay there!

In Congress, the utterly unfathomable actions of more than 120 GOP members to put their signatures to the Texas Attorney General’s ridiculous attempt to overturn presidential voting decisions in four other states. Actually put themselves up for certain public disgrace by voluntarily supporting a lie-filled, dead-on-arrival appeal to the United States Supreme Court to change the 2020 presidential votes in other sovereign states.

I’m no lawyer. But, you could see the SCOTUS reaction to such a desperate attempt to deep-six the will of the people a long, long way before the legal axe fell.

Yes, Democrats have a slim majority in the House. And, depending on the runoff elections in Georgia, they could even lock up the Senate with 50-50 seating and tie-breaking decisions in the hands of Vice President-elect Harris sitting in the President of the Senate’s chair.
But, if Georgia voters sustain Republican candidates for the Senate, the numbers will be 52-48. How, then, could President-Elect Biden manage to implement all those campaign promises? Will the Senate, as it has recently under the thumb of Mitch McConnell, become the dead-end for whatever legislation Biden and the Democrats produce?

Odds are plainly, yes.

This country is hurting. The divisions extant from border-to-border are increasingly deepening for lack of real government action at both the state and national levels. Deadlock and lack of willingness of political leaders to get off their asses and lead.

Folks out here in the neighborhoods don’t have $170-thousand-a-year jobs - don’t have staffs to carry their burden - aren’t supported by lobbyist perks - aren’t living lives of privilege.

What they ARE living with are massive layoffs, business failures - many because of our national pandemic - health care costs driving others into bankruptcy and near-starvation in many instances.

At the national level, unreasonable tariffs and Trump’s heavy-hand breaking international treaties have resulted in increased prices in the marketplace. Other factors such as automation wiping out jobs normally done by workers, technological advances requiring retraining - retraining a lot of folks can’t afford - are crippling our country.

There are two more factors overlaying all of this. One, of course, is the pandemic which is affecting all of us. For those who continue to live as if COVID is someone else’s problem, well, wait a little longer - maybe tomorrow - and see if you can continue your “normal” activities without infection. Or maybe, death.

As far as this country’s concerned, the pandemic couldn’t have hit at a worse time. Not that there is actually a “good” time. But, complicating our national response is a President who’s repeatedly lied about what was already here and who’s seemingly washed his hands of leadership. Or, even responsibility. By his incompetence and a degree of self-service not seen since Nero, he’s had a leading role in putting an unconscionable load on our national healthcare system. Because of his indolence, thousands have died and many more thousands are likely scarred for life.

Add to that the fear those most of us feel for our own health and safety. Again the failure of most Republican governors to take actions to help alleviate those largely too real, local concerns.

The second factor affecting most of us is feeling our voices, pleading for help, are falling on deaf ears in Washington. A national sense of no recognition of - and no response to - our immediate needs. In fact, the division between Congress and the rest of us may be the single greatest divide in our nation today.

We need responsive government action at all levels. Not handouts or new welfare programs. We need job training to put people back to work. We need help for the newly-unemployed to pay the rent or the mortgage during these desperate times. We need governors to step up and lay down the law with state-backed efforts to keep us safe from the pandemic. We even need a reliable food distribution system to keep people from starving in this nation of “amber waving grains.”

The idiocy of more than 100 Republican members of Congress getting involved in a “fool’s errand” before our highest court simply adds to the weight of the real problems our nation faces. The unwillingness of GOP governors to take political and personal responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens must end.

The national Republican Party - if such exists - needs to quickly figure out what it is and what it stands for. If Trump continues to be it’s “savior,” Republicans in Congress and State Houses will find their numbers dwindling at the hands of an electorate tired of being ignored.
 

Standing for federalism and the law

jones

Donald Trump and his supporters have filed over 50 lawsuits challenging various aspects of the 2020 presidential election. None of them have succeeded in establishing fraud or election impropriety. Most have been dismissed for lack of competent evidence by federal and state judges with backgrounds in both political parties, including recent Trump appointees to the federal bench.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had the bright idea of conglomerating many of the discredited claims and conspiracy theories from those suits into one package and pitching it to the U.S. Supreme Court. So, on December 7, commonly known as the day of infamy, he asked the Court to allow him to challenge the election results in 4 other states. It was not a military attack on the U.S., as occurred in 1941, but an attack on the very foundation of the federal system gifted to us by the Founding Fathers.

Congressman Chip Roy, a conservative Texas Republican, correctly critiqued Paxton’s frivolous gambit as a “dangerous violation of federalism” that would set “a precedent to have one state asking federal courts to police the voting procedures of other states.”

Another Republican, Ohio Attorney General David Yost, told the Court that Paxton’s request would “undermine a foundational premise of our federalist system: the idea that the States are sovereigns, free to govern themselves.”

As soon as Paxton filed his claptrap motion, Republican officials across the country jumped on board to support his poisonous attack on our Constitutional system. Donald Trump, 17 other state Attorneys General and over a hundred members of the U.S. House have pledged their support for the idea of allowing states to legally challenge the internal laws and practices of other states.

Idaho politicians are among those who heedlessly flocked to support the effort--Governor Little, Congressmen Simpson and Fulcher, and scads of state legislators. Apparently, it did not bother them that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Texas would set a dangerous precedent for inter-state conflict.

Luckily, the Supreme Court will likely see Paxton’s move for what it is--a last-gasp political stunt with absolutely no legal merit. Texas has no standing or legal grounds to pursue a case.

Which brings us to consider the Idahoan who has shown himself to be a clear legal thinker and true profile in courage. Much like the kid who pointed out that the emperor was unclothed, Lawrence Wasden has stated the unvarnished truth about this shameful charade.

Lawrence said: “As Attorney General, I have significant concerns about supporting a legal argument that could result in other states litigating against legal decisions made by Idaho’s legislature and governor. Idaho is a sovereign state and should be free to govern itself without interference from any other state. Likewise, Idaho should respect the sovereignty of other states.”

To illustrate Wasden’s concerns, let’s consider an existing situation with our western neighbors. Washington and Oregon seem to believe that Idaho is doing a wretched job of fighting the coronavirus and that we have allowed the disease to spread over the border, infecting their people. If states could challenge the legal decisions of other states, couldn’t those states ask the Supreme Court to force Governor Little to impose a mask mandate? State sovereignty would not mean much if Paxton were to prevail.

Shame on Idaho’s politicians who mindlessly jumped aboard Paxton’s wacko move to gut the federalist foundation of our government. Thanks to Attorney General Wasden for having the courage and wisdom to stand up for federalism and the rule of law.

Strategies for school

by Michael Strickland

Pandemic-related restrictions have had wide-ranging effects for Idaho teachers as well as those around the nation. Teachers I have spoken to report conditions from being rattled, to completely unsupported, to finally settling in to both hybrid and fully online instruction.

With Covid-19 lasting far longer than most people seem to have expected, many parents also find themselves in unchartered territory: teaching their children from home. Positive parent involvement is easier said than done. This is especially true for parents who were used to having full-time staff and facilities to aid their children's learning every day.

What strategies are best to navigate this brave new world?

Many parents feel as though they are not up to the demand of teaching their children from home. They may also be entering the unknown for themselves: working from home for the first time. Luckily, we are in an era in which technology is up for the challenge, with many sites and tools ready for parents to utilize. This article is designed to help parents by giving them resources to start their new journey. This is not an exhaustive list. It is merely a good place to start.

Sometimes, within all the turmoil, the best tools are right in front of us. Take a deeper look at your child’s school website. In my years of teaching secondary English, I was often surprised at how many parents don't take advantage of this. Many schools have subscriptions to various learning sites and libraries which are available to parents, and these are usually designed for the grade levels of the students at the school. If you’ve never really investigated your school’s website for online resources, check it out.

One site I suggest is We are Teachers. It has a multitude of free “teach at home” tools for parents and teachers alike. These resources are great for children in grade school as well as for those in middle and high school, and the site has recently been revamped specifically for parents who are teaching their children from home due to Covid-19. In addition, many resources that usually charge for access currently offer free access to schools and parents suffering hardships at this time. Here are some of best resources according to grade level:

Grade School Students (grades K-5)

• Scholastic at Home. This is a wonderful site that gives parents roughly 20 days of lessons consisting of approximately three-hour-a-day learning journeys across various subjects.
• Reading IQ. This expansive digital book and magazine resource serves ages 2-12. It is a great substitute for the school or public library, and it also allows parents to monitor what their child is reading.
• Adventure Academy. This educational multiplayer role game is geared for students up to 13 years old. It is an adventure which not only teaches children new things but also gives them a sense of community.
• Headsprout. This K-5 online reading program is currently offering a free subscription to their service that will take students through the end of the traditional school year.
• Curriculum Associates. If your child doesn’t always have computer access for his lessons, this site is for you. Curriculum Associates offers activities in both reading and math that are printable so your child can do them anytime and anywhere.

Middle and High School Students (grades 6-12)
• Science News. This site provides experiments and over 200 STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) experiments and activities for upper-grade students.
• UWorld. This resource offers practice tests for high-stakes academic tests including the PSAT, AP, SAT, and ACT.
• Read to Lead. This self-directed learning portal serves upper grades to engage in reading. It offers “episodes” which are all roughly 500 words of reading with comprehension and vocabulary exercises included.
• iCulture. If your child has been learning or is interested in learning another language, this may be the perfect way. iCulture offers whole-language immersion classes and resources for students in French, German, and Spanish.
• Mangahigh. This game-based site is filled with online learning resources for math. Its tools are robust and they adapt to students' levels. The games help students retain what they've learned and the dashboards track progress.

There are many tools for parents to make it through this trying time. All you need to do is get on your computer, put in your search parameters, and look. Finally, check your district website for an educational roadmap, support, health and wellness suggestions, remote learning tips, links to resources, and more. You will be excited with what you find.

Michael Strickland teaches at Boise State University.
 

A pandemic and a political failure

johnson

During his successful 2018 campaign to become Idaho’s governor, Brad Little pulled off one of the great stealth attacks on a political rival in recent memory. You may remember the story that only became public after Little’s election.

As a conservative who was still more moderate than his Republican primary opponents, Little needed to navigate the choppy waters of a party taken over by Donald Trump, and he found a way to do it.

Little’s task: prevent then-Congressman Raul Labrador from securing Trump’s endorsement thereby signaling to the Trump loving base of the party that Labrador was the anointed one. Little – or at least his political operatives – settled on a very Trump-like strategy. They would disqualify Labrador in Trump’s eyes. They produced a mashup tape of Labrador’s not infrequent criticism of Trump and got the tape to the White House. Almost best of all they did so without leaving fingerprints.

Labrador is heard on the tape belittling Trump in 2016 for being “a big whiner,” for not being a “gracious” loser and for threatening to sue anyone who crossed him, which Labrador called “just a ridiculous and a preposterous way to run a campaign.” Trump was reportedly ready to support Raul, but the tape nixed a Twitter endorsement and Trump ultimately stayed out of the Idaho race. Little won the primary and then easily dispatched Democrat Paulette Jordan in the general election.

The Idaho Press’s Betsy Russell wrote about the incident and what it seemed to say about Little the politician. Russell quoted College of Idaho political scientist Jasper LiCalzi saying, “It shows that Little understands politics — he’s not some naive person.” Little’s campaign operatives, LiCalzi added, “didn’t just fall off the potato truck.”

So how to explain the governor’s unilateral political surrender in the battle against the worst pandemic in a hundred years? Why has Little allowed a collection of his biggest political adversaries, and I don’t mean Democrats, to define the terms of the debate around sensible, science-based public health measures?

There is an old rule in politics about picking your enemies carefully. Little needs to start naming his enemies. He’s fighting – not very effectively – COVID-19, but he is also at war with science deniers, militia backing armed thugs and people who want him to be a one-term governor. Why isn’t Little fighting back with all the tools of a tough politician who “didn’t just fall off the potato truck?”

For starters, why doesn’t Little take on the dangerous, clownish militia agitator Ammon Bundy? Bundy and his followers are apparently some of the people who have repeatedly disrupted Idaho health district and school board meetings and even shut down school events. They intimidate and threaten public officials outside their own homes.

The Kansas City Star reported on Bundy and his multi-state network – “Ammon’s Army” – in October. This network, the paper said, “includes militia members, anti-maskers, conspiracy theorists, preppers and anti-vaccination activists. Its rapid growth has been boosted by the joining of Bundy’s far-right paramilitary supporters cultivated from armed standoffs over the years with a large base of new activists radicalized through protests over COVID-19 health directives.”

By refusing to name Bundy and his violence-threatening followers as real enemies of Idaho, Little is giving the radicals a pass. He should be defining them as the dangerous outliers they are, standing in the way of sensible public health measures. He should be asking: “Are you on Bundy’s side or are you on the side of an overworked, overwhelmed ICU nurse?”

The same goes with the odious Wayne Hoffman, the mouthpiece of the increasingly radical Idaho Freedom Foundation, a group that has opposed Little at every turn on virtually every issue and is now stoking the ludicrous fiction that wearing a mask to protect yourself and your fellow citizens is somehow a violation of your Constitutional right to make someone else sick.

“It’s become a familiar pattern,” the Idaho Falls Post Register said in a recent editorial. “Hoffman and those of his ilk spread lies about the pandemic. The protestors take up those falsehoods and lead campaigns of intimidation to hobble any effective response to the pandemic at the local level. And so they are deeply culpable for the wave of death that is bearing down on us.”

Yet, Little’s response to these self-important Neanderthals is so lame as to be laughable: “We’re marshaling all our forces. And yet, the enemy, this plague, continues to advance.” The governor actually said that during a news conference last week, while pleading ineffectively for “compliance” with public health measures that his real enemies attack hourly in every corner of the state. He’s not marshalling anything, he’s abdicating.

By not naming, shaming and holding responsible the public health deniers who have crippled Idaho’s response to the virus, Little has discarded a major and valuable weapon in the fight. The “enemy” is indeed the virus, but the enemy is also a gang of deplorables hampering a more effective response.

It’s not like any of these people – Bundy, Hoffman, Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin and any number of COVID denying legislators – are friends of Little. All of them, and add Labrador, who was photographed in the big indoor mall in Boise last weekend violating the city’s mask order, would knife Little in heartbeat. Heck, they are already doing so.

Hoping to show Little that an overwhelming number of Idahoans support a governor willing to lead more aggressively on the pandemic, a new grassroots group – The Idaho 97% – organized, as one of the founders Emily Walton told me this week, “to let him know we need him to run Idaho.” Walton said, “there has been no public voice for the vast majority of Idahoans who want to see the government function.” Little should be leading this majority and calling out the clowns in the minority.

“Brad Little, I think, comes across a little bit as, oh, he’s just a nice rancher, almost a naive guy, but he’s a tough politician, too,” LiCalzi, the College of Idaho political scientist, said of candidate Little in 2018. He noted that Little didn’t hesitate to attack his Democratic rival with negative TV ads, and he cut Labrador off at the knees. What’s happened to that political fire?

“I think it’s clear,” LiCalzi said, “he’s not somebody who’s going to just let someone run over him.” But getting run over is exactly what has happened as Little has allowed his most committed political opponents to get away with a campaign of misinformation, intimidation and denial.

These should be the people defined as responsible for so much death and disease, but by his wimpy response to these knuckleheads Little has brought the blame on himself.
 

Start dates

stapiluslogo1

Idaho Governor Brad Little, while pointing out the rapidly increasing cases of Covid-19 in Idaho, has suggested considering putting off (or reformatting to virtual) a potential multi-day - in fact, multi-month - potential superspreader event: The 2021 session of the Idaho Legislature.

The risks of spreading are real, and the governor wasn’t exaggerating when he called a crowded Statehouse a “pretty good petri dish for transmissible moments of COVID.”

The idea appears not to be gaining sufficient traction in the Idaho Legislature, however. Doing something like that would take near-universal buy-in, with rule changes and much more needed to make it happen. The Democratic caucuses suggested holding off the session until April or until vaccines are widely available. But Republicans seem unlikely to go there, and not just because of the GOP base attitude toward the pandemic. And making the change, especially so close to the planned start date, would in fact be a complex undertaking; a lot of frantic changes would have to be made.

Still. Before dismissing the idea entirely, there are thoughts worth considering.

One is that there’s nothing particularly sacred about the January 11 start date.

The legislature can change its start date if it wishes, according to Article III, Section 8 of the Idaho Constitution. You’d need to call a special session, though, to make that happen, since the start date is set in Idaho law (in a section scheduling it, ungainly, “at the hour of twelve o’clock P.M. on the Monday on or nearest the ninth day in January.” But it could be done.

Most legislative sessions around the country do begin their regular sessions in the first half of January in odd-numbered years; some hold short or no sessions in even-numbered years. But there are variations. California and Maine start their sessions in the December before - that’s as if the Idaho Legislature’s early December organizational session simply never adjourned and kept on going, with longish breaks for the holidays.

Oklahoma, Nevada, Alabama and West Virginia all regularly start their sessions in February. Florida starts in March, and Louisiana in April. But those aren’t the only variations. In Oregon, for example, the legislature is scheduled to start in 2021 the same day as in Idaho, but in most recent years it has launched its sessions in February. (It uses some of January to hold interim, planning and appointment meetings.)

But none of these dates are absolute requirements. These wintry schedules historically have related to the preferences of farmers who for generations made up disproportionate numbers of legislators in many states, including Idaho. The Gem State still has plenty of farmer lawmakers, but not as many of the total group as historically was the case. The farmer legislators who needed to get back to their fields for planting time are fewer and tend to be less constrained now than they once were.

Time was, as well, when no one wanted to be stuck at the Statehouse in the heat of summer, but these days we have an invention called air conditioning that keeps most of these places cool.

So why is the legislative session these days really held when it is?

Probably because of inertia, as much as anything else.

So there’s a case to be made:

If Covid-19 vaccines are widely distributed through the first quarter of next year, then a regular legislative session next spring might be more safely and easily held than one starting in January.

There are reasonable counterarguments, such as the disruption of planning of thousands of people.

But it merits some consideration.
 

Deciding

schmidt

I have always been skeptical of new medical developments. So, when I heard about this Covid immunization being rolled out so quickly based on Messenger RNA, my knee jerk reaction was a quiet wince. For some reason, the hottest new treatment often becomes the fastest recalled drug.

But then I did some studying. Not on Facebook, not in chatrooms, but looking for reputable, balanced reports. Most folks aren’t much attracted to balanced information these days. Call me a dinosaur.

It turns out this mRNA technology has been around for a while. I hope you remember your high school biology. DNA was discovered in the 1950’s. Messenger RNA (mRNA) was discovered in the 1960’s. DNA stores the record of what proteins your cell should build. MRNA carries that record to the protein building factories.

Thirty years ago, it was shown you could inject mRNA into mice muscle and the cells would make the protein message. In 1993 they even showed they could immunize mice against influenza with mRNA.

So where has this technology been for the last thirty years? No surprise, they’ve been trying to make a profit. They’ve been trying to match this new technology with a disease; one with a big return on investment. Most licensed drugs that use mRNA are for inherited metabolic diseases. The patients live a long time, will need the drug for their lifetimes, and it works. Demand is predictable.

There’s not much profit in the immunization business. Most flu shots are made in chicken eggs or other cells; there is one that is approved that is recombinant. MRNA medicine developers just haven’t seen much profit in the flu shot market. But now, a pandemic comes along.

It turns out you can make mRNA pretty fast. And that’s what we need: lots of doses, well distributed. Idaho is set to get 14,000 doses in the initial shipment. If Moderna gets their vaccine approved Idaho should get 89,000 doses before Biden’s inauguration. The FDA rushed emergency use approval last week for Pfizer’s shot, reportedly with a White House gun at their head.

That inspires confidence.

First priority for the shots (you need two, weeks apart) are health care workers and nursing home residents. Idaho has about 80,000 heath care eligible, 20,000 nursing homes residents. So, you can see we might be a bit short to start with.

If it keeps snowing like this in North Idaho, we might need a dog sled team to deliver them.

Many questions linger. Will immunity last, will it be protective? Will there be long term side effects? Since we haven’t taken the time to study these questions, we will be finding them out in real time. In our own experiences.

The real question that nobody can answer is, will people be willing to get immunized? In this atmosphere, maybe not. The numbers have bounced around a bit in a running Gallup poll. The most recent numbers show about 60% say YES, but 20% say NO and 20% maybe. Of course, the analysis of these choices makes good speculation.

We have a lot of information at our fingertips. I just looked all this stuff up about mRNA vaccines on my laptop. Remember, I avoided Facebook and chatrooms and hyperbolic sites. But most people don’t make important decisions based on information.

Last month, Covid was the leading cause of death in Idaho. We have been
seeing, week on week, a steady rise in cases, and deaths. Remember, deaths lag cases. December, January, despite the snow and cold will be grim in this state.

I can’t escape my skeptical nature. But I can manage it. Information, study and reflection help me manage. I am in the “health care worker” category, and I’m in the age group most likely to have a serious infection. I will take the shots when they are offered. But I might not be in the front of the line.
 

Only you can prevent Covid-19

malloy

Gov. Brad Little has been hounded for his lack of “leadership” and “courage” in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Translation: He’s not doing a good job of pandering to either side.

Those to the left think quality leadership amounts to a statewide mask mandate that wouldn’t work in Idaho in a million years. Apparently, the thinking is that Idahoans would obediently accept such an edict, along with mounds of other restrictions in the state’s “Rebound” plan, and hunker down until the pandemic goes away. The problem is there are too many people – you’ve seen them on local and national newscasts – who would view non-compliance as a participation sport.

Those to the right view “courage” as essentially doing nothing – allowing business to go on as normal and letting the chips fall where they may. Little has placed Idaho in Stage 2 of the “Rebounds” plan in reaction to soaring COVID cases and in response to what health experts have been telling him.

“Leadership” is an easy word to kick around, when you have no other good solutions to offer, but it’s a difficult one to put in practice. Leadership works only if people are willing to follow, and there are not many people in the Gem State who appear to be willing to follow in relation to the coronavirus.

As the governor correctly writes in a recent opinion piece, “Communities, public officials and even families are at odds in their view on COVID-19 and the response to it. Never have we seen this level of divisiveness.”

Sometimes, the best form of leadership is providing a sense of calm during the most difficult of circumstances, and hat’s off to the governor for trying that approach. As he correctly puts it in his op-ed headline, “The enemy is the virus, not each other.”

He’s proposing a solution that has worked brilliantly for Republicans since the Reagan years. Personal responsibility. In fact, I can picture the old Gipper saying a few of the lines penned by Little.

“Everyone questions who is responsible for protecting ourselves, our loved ones, the economy, healthcare access, and our kids’ ability to learn in their classrooms. The answer is all of us. We are all responsible, each in our own way for doing our part to get us through this dark and difficult time.”

This was the kind of morale-boosting stuff Reagan was talking about as the nation was digging out of the “malaise” of the late 1970s.

“In our individual lives, we must do all we can to stay vigilant and consistently practice simple measures, including wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings and crowds, and keeping physical distance from others. Government alone is not going to prevent a crisis in our healthcare system. It is up to each of us as individuals to make the right choices.”

Thanks, Ronnie … uhhh, Brad. We needed that.

The Royal Seniors, my bowling league on Mondays, are not waiting for political directives. We’re practicing social distancing, to the extent possible, and there is no fighting over mask-wearing. People are there for the same purpose – to enjoy bowling, friendship and good health. Taking simple precautions is a small price to pay for keeping the lanes open.

I cringe when I see calls for a statewide mask mandate. You don’t have to be in Idaho long to know that people here love guns. They also have a passion for things like “liberty” and “constitutional rights.” A mask mandate would be viewed in some corners as a declaration of war on those rights and there’s no telling where that would lead – or what characters would be storming into the state to fight that war.

No thank you. I prefer Little’s call for personal responsibility, along with some general respect for fellow Idahoans. I yield to the governor for closing.

“I know at times it can be hard to have compassion. But this Christmas season is a time to reflect on family, faith and unity. Choose to support others while seeking to understand those who do not view things the way you do. We should not let the pandemic divide us, but make us stronger.”

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
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