Idaho governor and lieutenant feud over vaccinations

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Idaho governor and lieutenant feud over vaccinations

Idaho’s feuding governor and lieutenant governor are at it again.

As coronavirus cases spike in the state, Gov. Brad Little’s office disclosed Tuesday that he was mobilizing the National Guard again and adding hundreds of new medical personnel for state hospitals.

And with hospitals strained due to unvaccinated patients, he called for more Idahoans “to receive the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” according to a statement from his office. 

But Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a fellow Republican who is running to unseat Little for the state’s 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination, called the governor’s support for vaccinations “shameful.”

“It was shameful for Brad to suggest today that Idahoans must make a specific medical choice in order to show love for their neighbors,” McGeachin tweeted. “You can love your neighbor and still make medical decisions that are right for you. I trust YOU to make your own health choices.”

In July, Saint Alphonsus Health System and St. Luke’s Health System — two of the largest medical care providers in Idaho — announced a vaccine requirement ahead of the busy cold and flu season and as coronavirus variants spread in parts of the US. 

After the decision, McGeachin urged Idaho’s hospitals and health care companies to drop their vaccine mandate “so that we may have a chance to sit down together, discuss these issues associated with the mandate and the infringement on personal health care decisions in greater detail,” she said.

“The issue at hand is a matter of individual liberty and freedom,” McGeachin said, according to the Idaho Statesman. “Those who have made the personal medical choice not to take this vaccine deserve to have their decisions respected.”

Earlier mask dispute

Idaho Gov. Brad Little urges people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus during a visit to Nampa High School in Nampa Idaho, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little urges people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus during a visit to Nampa High School in Nampa Idaho, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.
AP

Little, 67 and McGeachin, 58, also feuded over masks earlier this year, with McGeachin imposing a ban on mask mandates as Little traveled out of state. Little accused McGeachin of attempting a “self-serving political stunt.”

McGeachin’s order lifted requirements at several institutions, including public buildings and schools. The action did not apply to hospitals or other health care facilities. Little reversed the ban within 24 hours of its implementation. 

McGeachin, who has been critical of Little’s leadership throughout the pandemic, said the ban on mask mandates was “absolutely not” a bid to garner publicity for her recently announced 2022 gubernatorial run. 

“My action was to uphold my sworn oath to uphold and protect the rights of our citizens in Idaho, as guaranteed to us in our US constitution, our Idaho constitution and the rule of law in Idaho,” McGeachin said in an interview with Fox News. “That is what I did.”

As of late Tuesday, more than 48 percent of people in Idaho were fully vaccinated. State health officials reported 1,226 new virus cases earlier in the day. 

There have been at least 2,363 coronavirus-related deaths in Idaho since the start of the pandemic, officials added. 

“Idaho hospitals are beyond constrained. Our healthcare system is designed to deal with the everyday realities of life. Our healthcare system is NOT designed to withstand the prolonged strain caused by an unrestrained global pandemic. It is simply not sustainable,” Little said in a release by his office. “We are teetering on the brink and there is only one real solution – we need more Idahoans to choose to receive the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine now.”

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