Eastern Idaho residents ask Gov. Little to re-open the state during rally Saturday
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REXBURG — Families, small business owners, and others gathered across eastern Idaho Saturday to call on Gov. Brad Little to reopen the state immediately.
“All businesses should be open,” Jana Bake, the owner of Styles and Smiles Family Salon in Rexburg, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We can have regulations about limiting crowds, but we should all be open because all businesses are essential.”
Rexburg resident Dan Roberts helped organized the “All Jobs are Essential Car Rally” with speakers Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, Sugar City Mayor Steve Adams, Rigby Mayor Jason Richardson and Dr. Jim Brook. Each speaker addressed the crowd on Zoom through Facebook live.
“It’s a beautiful day in Idaho to exercise our first amendment,” Roberts said in the live stream. “…We need to drop the work ban he (Little) has imposed and restore our rights, and right of livelihood to Idaho families.”
While Roberts asked for attendees to gather outside Bonneville, Jefferson and Madison county courthouses in their cars and tune in virtually, most protesters stood outside. Some carried signs, flags and guns and many drivers honked their horns as they passed. Between the three cities, well over 100 people gathered.
“Pissed off citizen would define me,” said Stephanie Brunson of Idaho Falls. “We are fortunate to have jobs that are ‘determined essential,’ but I think that’s wrong … everybody’s job, everybody’s paycheck is essential.”
Bake, the salon owner, said being closed for at least six weeks imposes a heavy burden upon her and her employees. She said her bills have not stopped with the forced closure of her business. She is one of many business owners who attended the multi-county rally.
“We are essential, my employees are very essential,” said Ruth Miller, owner of The Office Bar in Rigby.” They have no income coming in and the little bit the government wants to feed out to them can’t sustain them.”
Adams said that Idaho “does not need a phased authoritarian approach” to reopening the state. But what Idaho does need is a conservative approach, he says, keeping decisions at the local level that respect the rights and freedoms of individuals.
“Governor Little needs to step down and let someone run our state that knows how,” Miller, the bar owner, said. “To encompass all of the people, not just the ones that want to live the way he wants to live.”
McGeachin, who owns The Celt Pub and Grill in Idaho Falls, said people need to ask Little to eliminate the stay-home order established on March 26. Little extended the order last week to continue through April 30 before implementing a 4-stage plan to re-open Idaho’s economy.
“By doing this we’ll also eliminate some concerning language that has been defined within this order, which says which businesses are essential and which employees are essential,” McGeachin said.
Guidelines deeming which businesses are essential create confusion, she says, such as purchasing seed from a big-box store instead of a local nursery.
“Is it because we, as a society, have not dug down deep enough to truly understand what these guidelines are, and that these are simply guidelines offered by our federal government and not intended to be mandatory?” McGeachin said.
Brook, a local doctor and author, said that it is not COVID-19 that is the greatest threat to human life right now, but it is poverty. Columbia University researchers report that poverty makes up around 4% of deaths in the United States, he says, and research from the University of Sothern California determined the virus killed around 0.175% of Los Angeles County residents who contracted COVID-19. Brook says that number is not much higher than seasonal influenza.
“Gov. Little, I can understand how you could have been led by some to taking drastic steps weeks ago, but now we have more data,” Brook said.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, 1,870 people have tested positive for the coronavirus out of more than 19,000 tests. The virus claimed the lives of 54. Health officials report 867 people are presumed recovered. That number represents a 2.8% mortality rate in Idaho. The exact number of people who have contracted the virus remains unknown due to initial limitations in testing.
Gov. Little’s 4-stage plan to reopen Idaho’s economy begins May 1. If Idaho meets the criteria designed to track the impact of coronavirus, the state will be completely open by mid to late June.