'Holy hell': Idaho’s far-right lt. gov. bans vaccine mandates with governor out of state

'Holy hell': Idaho’s far-right lt. gov. bans vaccine mandates with governor out of state
Image via Screengrab.

An executive order issued by Idaho's far-right lieutenant governor had been announced only minutes earlier when Gov. Brad Little said Tuesday night that he would rescind the directive aimed at banning vaccine mandates.

Little's second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, announced Tuesday on social media that with Little out of the state for a meeting with Republican governors in Texas, she had the authority to prohibit all state facilities—including public schools—from requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination or mandatory testing.

McGeachin, who has previously issued executive orders while Little was out-of-state, said on Twitter that she was "fixing" an order the governor issued earlier this year, which only covered non-educational facilities and didn't include a ban on testing requirements.

"I have not authorized the Lt. Governor to act on my behalf," said Little in a statement shared on social media just four minutes after McGeachin's announcement. "I will be rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return." Little is expected to return to Idaho Wednesday evening. Epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding was among those who expressed shock at McGeachin's actions.

While also a far-right Republican, Little has allowed local governments in Idaho to issue mask mandates and other restrictions to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Little and McGeachin clashed in the early weeks of the pandemic, when Little shut down bars in the state. The lieutenant governor has attended events where people burned face coverings in protest of mask mandates, and appeared in a video last October which stated the pandemic "may or may not be occurring" while hospitals across Idaho were approaching capacity.

At the time, Little responded that he hoped "some people have passed the point of thinking the pandemic is not real or is not a big deal, or that their personal actions don't really affect anything."

McGeachin also attempted to ban mask mandates in May while Little was at a conference in Nashville—an executive order which was quickly reversed by the governor.

As a significant segment of the U.S. population has remained unvaccinated and right-wing news outlets and politicians have pushed misinformation about the vaccines, public health experts have called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to urge mask-wearing in high-transmission areas regardless on vaccination status, and officials have issued vaccine mandates in a number of states.

President Joe Biden announced in late July that federal workers would be required to show proof of vaccination and government employees in states including New York, North Carolina, and California are also now required to be vaccinated.

McGeachin, who is running for the Republican nomination in next year's election for governor and will likely face Little in the primary, also attempted on Tuesday to activate the Idaho National Guard and send troops to the southern U.S. border but was told by the guard's commanding general that assistance had not been requested from border states.

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