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Protestors against COVID-19 mandates gather in Ammon as state officials meet

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AMMON — As state officials implemented crisis standards of care for Idaho, a crowd gathered outside Gov. Brad Little’s capitol for a day event at the Ammon City Hall.

Protestors held signs emphasizing words like freedom and choice in response to Thursday’s decision by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and last week’s federal vaccine mandates implemented by President Joe Biden. The protest was organized by the American Association for Advancing Awareness and Action. Several dozen people attended ranging in age from small children to the elderly.

“There is a huge pushback against vaccine mandates,” protest organizer and association spokeswoman Halli Stone said. “You can see there is a great deal of sentiment. People care. If they have a point to rally, they come out. They hate being told they have to take an experimental vaccine that has been proven to be dangerous.”

Health experts have continually encouraged people to get vaccinated, calling it both safe and effective in lessening the symptoms of COVID-19. In August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine after months of administration under an emergency use authorization. Moderna has applied for full approval of its vaccine for those 18-years-old and older and Johnson and Johnson says they expect full approval later this year.

EastIdahoNews.com reporter Eric Grossarth speaks with protest organizer Halli Stone

“I’m not for or against vaccination because I think it’s about choice,” protestor David Lewis said. “Mr. Joe it is about freedom and it is about personal choice.”

During the Sept. 9 announcement, Biden said his mandates are not about freedom or personal choice, but about protecting everyone against the coronavirus.

“We want the governor to hear our voices, the governor is speaking out against federal mandates, but he’s not speaking out against private businesses mandates and he needs to understand that Idahoans don’t want to lose their jobs because they don’t want a harmful vaccine,” Lewis said.

Many protestors at the event were adamant they were not anti-vaccine, but multiple people EastIdahoNews.com spoke with shared they themselves are not getting vaccinated and have concerns about its safety, despite the FDA saying vaccines are safe.

Regional hospitals have also joined with the FDA in saying the vaccines are safe. Currently, Idaho is about 49% vaccinated with an additional six percent receiving at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines. For weeks Eastern Idaho Public Health and other officials have urged Idahoans to get vaccinated to prevent the state from going into crisis standards of care.

“The situation is dire – we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident,” IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen said in a news release Thursday.

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Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

Under crisis standards of care, hospitals will prioritize patients differently. Instead of patients being prioritized by the need for immediate medical attention, health care resources are diverted to those most likely to survive.

“This is a very scary thing, again it’s a medical mandate,” Stone said. “The legislature and the governor need to look at the crisis standards of care … the legislature needs to review bureaucratic agency rule that has put every Idahoan in danger of losing their lives because of lower care given in Idaho hospitals.”

Despite crisis standard of care implementation, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center released a statement saying they are not making immediate changes to hospital operations. EIRMC said they will continue to review the demands on staff and resources and if necessary will prioritize treatments under the crisis standard of care guidelines.

“This latest surge of cases and hospitalizations was largely preventable if our fellow Idahoans had chosen to receive the vaccine,” EIRMC officials said in the news release. “At this critical moment in our fight against COVID-19, we urge all community members to do all they can to protect themselves and others as the pandemic surges: get vaccinated if you are able, wear masks around other people, and socially distance where appropriate.”

Eastern Idaho Public Health currently reports 785 active COVID-19 cases in the eight-county district. 35 of those patients are currently hospitalized, according to the latest data Thursday afternoon.

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