President Donald Trump now joins Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx (two key members of his coronavirus task force) in acknowledging that according to some projections, COVID-19 could ultimately kill 100,000-240,000 people in the U.S. alone — and that’s even with aggressive social distancing measures. Yet there are others on the far right who continue to absurdly claim that the dangers of COVID-19 are being exaggerated, from white evangelical Christian fundamentalists to patriot groups and militias. And the New York Times’ Mike Baker is reporting that in Idaho, some on the far right are vowing to openly defy social distancing rules ordered by a Republican governor.
Last week near Boise, Baker reports, Ammon Bundy (who once led an armed takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon) spoke to “a few dozen people” and encouraged Idaho residents to defy the social distancing orders of Gov. Brad Little. Bundy told the crowd, “If it gets bad enough and our rights are infringed upon enough, we can physically stand in defense in whatever way we need to. But we hope we don’t have to get there.”
Baker adds that Bundy is not alone in encouraging Idaho residents to defy social distancing.
“The opposition is coming not only from people like Mr. Bundy, whose armed takeover of the Oregon refuge with dozens of other men and women in 2016 led to a 41-day standoff, but also, from some state lawmakers and a county sheriff who are calling the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order an infringement on individual liberties,” Baker reports.
Dr. Hans Hurt, who practices emergency medicine at Bonner General Health in Sandpoint, Idaho, warned that opponents of social distancing are not only endangering their own health, but also, the health of Idaho residents in general.
Hurt told the New York Times, “Even if it’s just a small group that wants to exercise their right to assemble, it puts the community at large at such a high risk.”
Little, now 66, is by no means a liberal or a progressive: he’s a hard-right Republican in a deep red state who had been serving as lieutenant governor when, in 2018, he defeated Democrat Paulette Jordan in Idaho’s gubernatorial race by 21%. And yet, some Idaho Republicans are highly critical of his stay-at-home order — including Heather Scott and Tim Remington, both of whom are serving in the Idaho House of Representatives. Remington, a pastor, led a March 29 church service in defiance of Little. And in Bonner County, Idaho, Sheriff Daryl Wheeler declared in an open letter, “In the spirit of liberty and the Constitution, you can request those that are sick to stay home. But at the same time, you must release the rest of us to go on with our normal business.”
Hurt, however, maintains that the lives of health care workers and coronavirus patients in Idaho are being endangered by those who defy social distancing.
“If we stop doing what we’re doing, it could deteriorate so quickly — and our resources could be overwhelmed so quickly,” Hurt told the New York Times. “It’s scary for the people in this community and scary for us as hospital workers to be inundated with that.”