The Local Covid Come-Back–Brace Yourself

The most-read article in the Spokesman last Friday was “Hundreds protest stay-home order at courthouse, shout down politicians hoping to reopen economy.” Click on it, have a look, scroll through the photographs. (No paywall, it’s “COVID-19” coverage.) People standing shoulder to shoulder, not a mask in sight. 

On Saturday the Spokesman published “Idaho retailers welcome customers, as state’s four-stage rebound plan gets underway.” The lead photo shows a scene in Coeur d’Alene of rejoicing shoppers, none with masks. Brad Little, the Republican governor announced “stage 1” with “90 percent of businesses in the state will be allowed to reopen. This includes retail businesses, day camps, daycare facilities and places of worship.”

The Washington-Idaho border is no barrier to the spread of a respiratory virus. What happens in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane will wash both ways. All of us are about to become unwilling subjects of an epidemiological experiment to which we have not given our consent. How many of Matt Shea’s protesters in Spokane will bring the virus back to the Redoubt? On the Idaho side Governor Brad Little is trying to walk a middle road (for a Republican). After all, he was called a “Little Hitler” by Heather Scott, ID state Rep from the northernmost Idaho legislative district, darling of the Redoubt, and ally of Washington State extremist Rep. Matt Shea (who led the protest in Spokane last Friday). Governor Brad Little’s “Stage 1” (of four stages of two weeks each) calls for safeguards, including an instruction to practice social distancing. Masks are left to the discretion of the establishment and the patrons. 

Wake up, people. This is a respiratory virus. It is spread by coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, and, maybe, even breathing. It is spread by people who don’t even know they’re infected. One infected person shouting without a mask at the Matt Shea-led protest last Friday in Spokane could seed the Covid-19 virus among dozens of other shoulder-to-shoulder protesters. How many of these know-nothings will go shopping early this week in Coeur d’Alene without a mask? How many will transmit the disease to an elderly neighbor? 

I urge you to read the Spokesman article on the Spokane protest carefully. Take notes on the names. The article is a Who’s Who of the Inland Northwest’s religious extremists, science deniers, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and would-be revolutionaries. Chief among them is Matt Shea, prime promoter of his theocratic “Liberty State,” featured speaker at conspiracy theorist forums, podcaster, and incumbent Washington State Representative for Legislative District 4, Spokane Valley north to Mount Spokane. He faces two challengers, Leonard Christian and Lori Feagan, in the August 4th WA State Primary. Remember that. Matt Shea is a festering cancer in our body politic. He needs to be electorally excised.

The Covid Come-Back? We’ll see. It comes down to individual behavior, morality, and the quality of our leadership, not questions of law and prosecution. Leadership from the top, from Trump and Pence on down, needs to say it is patriotic, right, respectful, and decent to wear a mask. Friday’s Matt Shea-led Spokane protest is particularly discouraging. These folk have no respect for the lives of others. Their shoulder-to-shoulder spacing, lack of masks, and the fact that they even gathered speaks volumes of their ignorance–and it does not bode well for keeping Covid-19 at bay. 

Spokane County Sheriff Knezovich (R) and several other elected officials, including Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D, LD3, Spokane) endured the boos and catcalls of protesters in order to speak. Sheriff Knezovich “made the point that no one had been ticketed or arrested in Spokane County for violating the shutdown order from the governor and didn’t think there ever would be.” That’s a key fact that puts the lie to Shea’s incitements over “tyranny” and their twisted idea of “freedom.” In fact they are “free” to act in an ignorant fashion. They should be spotlighted, recognized for what they are, shunned, and, in Shea’s case, voted out of office.

Whether we succeed at safely opening up while avoiding a resurgence of Covid-19 will depend on personal compliance with reasonable recommendations. It’s not a legal issue. It is a moral issue. The moral high ground is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and wear a mask. 

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. The level of sheer ignorance prevalent among the speakers and protesters in the Spokane crowd at the demonstration last Friday is amply documented in the article itself. Once again, I encourage you to read it carefully and take note of the names of the speakers and the groups represented. For me, the saddest quote illustrated how this ignorance is passed on: “Emilia McGuire, a 16-year-old from Deer Park, stood with a group of young people holding signs claiming that COVID-19 death counts aren’t accurate and that the novel coronavirus is a hoax.”