The Covid Insanity Next Door
As North Idaho hospitals go into triage mode, schools open without masks
Prominent on the front page of the Wednesday, September 8, Spokesman was the headline “Idaho enacts crisis care standards”.1 On page one of the same print edition’s Northwest Section a headline read, “Business as usual for Idaho schools.” This second article was adorned with a supra-heading “Masks are rare as schools open in COVID-19-ravaged Kootenai County.”
Children under age twelve are not vaccinated as the vaccine is not yet available for this age group. Only a small percentage of students over age twelve in North Idaho and the NE counties of adjacent Washington State are vaccinated. (The overall county vaccination rates in these counties stand at 35% or less.) By now it is abundantly clear that Covid-19 is primarily spread by aerosols and droplets released by breathing, speaking, and singing, especially in indoor environments. It is also abundantly clear that masks reduce the dose of the virus that is dispersed by those infected and also reduces the dose inhaled by those who are not yet infected. The mask policies of North Idaho schools are little more than a tepid suggestion in favor of wearing them. Without masking, schools are a caldron perfectly suited for infecting the maximum number of children and their families.
With hospital wards filling up, the lack of a school mask mandate is insanity based in ideological denial. Sufficient numbers of anti-science, far right Republican ideologues have attained positions on boards in North Idaho over the years that there is no will to counteract their anti-scientific drivel. For example, North Idaho College (NIC) President Rick MacLennan issued a campus-wide mask mandate that officially lasted just four days before the Board of Trustees of NIC, in a contentious meeting, rescinded it.2 Wilson Criscione, in an Inlander article which I highly recommend reading, put it this way:
Just four days into the semester, however, the board of trustees voted 3-2 to rescind the mask mandate. The board's new majority, which gained control in the November 2020 election by riding a wave of right-wing distrust of higher education, took advantage of a new Idaho law that appears to give elected trustee members the authority to dictate operational decisions in response to the pandemic — an authority that previously was held by the college president.
MacLennan’s contract as NIC’s president is now held hostage by the board over the mask issue—and the wish of the far right’s new 3-2 majority on the board to demonstrate its dominance.
And now, MacLennan's future at the college may be in jeopardy, as the board won't renew his contract and keeps delaying an ominous discussion of MacLennan's employment.
This is what happens when voters don’t do their homework and fail to vote accordingly in elections for offices they deem obscure. (This is a cautionary tale for the Spokane Public School’s [District 81] Board elections coming up in November that I plan to cover next week.)
Meanwhile, North Idaho hospitals are having to practice “crisis care standards” due to the overload of patients, nearly all of whom are unvaccinated, people in need of critical care for severe cases of Covid-19. In common English, “crisis care standards” means triage, a term most often used in frontline military hospital units or hospitals in the midst of a natural disaster. In triage mode, patients deemed most likely salvageable are awarded scarce beds and treatment. Patients who would otherwise have been admitted may have to be turned away, and those deemed near death may have their supportive care re-directed to those with a higher chance of survival.
So under “crisis care standards” hospital committees may be faced with heartrending decisions over which patient receives scarce resources. How is it possible to chose between a thirty-five year old unvaccinated mother of four who has been intubated in the intensive care unit for a month or the forty year old father of three who presents to the emergency room with a myocardial infarction and an unstable heart rhythm?
These are impossible choices that may be made necessary by rampant misinformation about vaccines and right wing, office-holding ideologues nixing mask-mandates in the name of “Liberty!” What can you do? Advocate for vaccines and masks. Then pay attention to the electoral landscape. Get acquainted with the ideologies of the candidates. Talk with your friends about what you’ve learned and vote accordingly.
Keep to the high ground,
Note that the online articles at Spokesman.com often have a different title than the same article in the print edition—and sometimes they have a different date. This particular article that appeared on Wednesday in print goes by the title “‘We hoped this day would not come’: COVID-19 surge brings rationing of care to North Idaho hospitals” at Spokesman.com. It was published there in the evening of the previous day.
Here is an example of the need to read more than one account any event to understand what is going on. Greg Mason wrote an article in the Spokesman about the NIC mask mandate controversy that is as impenetrable as it is long-winded. Wilson Criscione’s Inlander article offers context (how many trustees make up the board, when they came on the board and what background they had, when the law they used was enacted, and the vote count, for example).