Idaho Republicans pushed their state into a COVID crisis. Now it's spreading over state borders

Idaho Republicans pushed their state into a COVID crisis. Now it's spreading over state borders
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Here's a nicely written little story from The New York Times about how the state of Idaho's near-complete incompetence at dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in adjacent Washington State hospitals having to pick up the slack. Northern Idaho hospitals are now so inundated with patients that crisis rationing of health care was announced last week. In Washington, the new flood of Idaho pandemic patients is resulting in postponed brain cancer surgeries and overwhelmed emergency rooms.

But a more useful headline for the piece would be the angle that the story itself only touches as gingerly as possible: Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little's clownish pandemic incompetence is flat-out killing people, and not all of them are in Idaho. It's yet another case of a red-state Republican government completely botching—on purpose—the response to a public crisis while leaving it to the public and to nearby better-run governments to clean up the wreckage. Again. And Americans have every right to be pissed off about it.

The Times dryly notes that Brad Little's office would not make the governor available to answer questions, as he steadfastly declares his continued determination to do little to nothing to respond to the medical now-crisis in his state. Idaho's 40% vaccination rate is among the nation's lowest, and Little is among the Republican governors who—of course—bellowed that he would be taking legal action to make sure the federal government couldn't mandate vaccinations for employees in his flag-waving clot-loving neck of the woods. There's similarly no plans to take other measures to reduce the pandemic's spread in the state.

The Little plan appears to be akin to Republican plans in Florida and elsewhere and can be roughly described as "If we claim it's patriotic not to try, then nobody can blame us for the staggering numbers of deaths." Like Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis, Little also attempted to portray pandemic safety measures as a Democratic attack on "freedom," specifically the freedom to spread a deadly disease if you damn well want to, anywhere you want to, because screw everybody else.

At this point it's hard to blame this entirely on Donald Trump. His thickheaded incompetence was the reason Republicanism first came to insist that competence, actually, was the real enemy here, but Trump is retired now and the rest of these clowns are still in the center ring. If they want to continue to declare that 600,000 deaths and counting are nothing Republicanism needs to rouse itself to deal with, that's on them.

What the Idaho-Washington State case demonstrates, however, is that it is not just Idaho conservatism's declarators of personal pandemic freedom who are being killed off by their new affinity for a disease "the liberals" don't want them to get. Little's incompetence at managing what's now a state emergency is risking lives in Washington State and in any other state now having to accept an influx of ventilator-reliant Idaho freedom-havers. It's the same dynamic that's played out time and time again, as Republican ideologues make a catastrophe of state and federal budgets, help cause economic crises, exacerbate infrastructure crises, act as willing enablers of medical crises, enter incompetently premised wars and then rely on the nation's not-Republicans to attempt to patch up the damage without them.

Why the hell is Brad Little not being impeached this very moment? In Republican governance you can fill hospitals to overflowing, fill them further until crisis protocols must be enacted, fill them further still so that hospitals in neighboring states are also seeing an influx of your state residents, and still nobody in the party will question whether or not Republicanism should be doing something more substantive than bupkis in response.

If Idaho conservatives love their freedom more than they love being able to breathe without mechanical assistance, will the state be reimbursing nearby states for the costs incurred when those conservatives change their mind? Of course not. Will Idaho be sending their own national guard to help in those states? Unlikely. Will Idaho conservatives at any point be swayed by mass deaths? Recent history suggests that each freedom-loving Republican will regret their past actions if and only if a member of their own family kicks the pandemic bucket. If a member of your family gets infected and dies, they don't care. If it's your cancer surgery that has to be delayed, allowing the cancer to further grow so that hospitals can free up rooms and doctors for unvaccinated anti-mask belligerents now sucking air through a tube while their families search local livestock supply stores for veterinary dewormers, they don't care.

Maybe Washington State needs to implement vaccine passports for crossing its state borders.

Something that doesn't appear to be being addressed, yet, is the possibility that the red-state mayhem caused by Republican governors and legislatures openly mocking pandemic safety will have long-term state effects beyond the immediate death toll. Getting vaccinated is free. Being treated in an emergency room for even a "mild" case of COVID-19 infection is not only not free, it remains heart-stoppingly expensive. Spend a night or 10 in an ICU and even with insurance, many Americans will still face a mountain of unpayable bills.

What will be the long-term economic effects in places like Florida and Idaho after a sea of unvaccinated patients live through the pandemic, only to see their savings wiped out and then some from the costs of keeping them alive? What will the long-term effects on local health care systems be from that many bills going unpaid?

How much of that, too, will be spread around neighboring, more responsible states?

The Idaho "plan," such as it is, is a worldwide embarrassment. Little and his fellow Republican blusterers have shown such unfathomable incompetence as to seriously merit questions about whether any of them ought to be doing time in prison. Not only do the state's conservative operators feel proud about doing absolutely nothing of note to tamp down an infection rate that has state hospitals in crisis, they continue to take steps to ensure nobody else is allowed to mitigate the damage either.

If that's what Idaho conservatives truly want—and who are we to say—then fine. But their own inflicted crisis is causing havoc outside their borders and in places where conservatism does not hold sway, and other Americans have every right to be enraged by that. Keep your patriotic deaths to yourselves and leave the rest of us out of it, Republican do-nothings. These are your bills to be paid, not ours. Stop relying on everyone else to bail you out of every catastrophe you so giddily inflict.

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