Editorial Roundup: Idaho

| October 16, 2020 12:06 AM

Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

Gov. Little, get serious about coronavirus and issue a statewide mask mandate

Idaho Statesman

Oct. 14

Idaho Gov. Brad Little continues to rely on the good graces of Idahoans to do the right thing when it comes to wearing a mask and practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Idaho’s strategy of polite requests for voluntary action is starting to unravel.

He often is seen in public wearing a mask, himself, and he repeats at press conferences a request for everyone to wear a mask.

Yet, he gives tacit approval of people and groups that flout his mere recommendations, Little sends a mixed message by saying “Mask Up, Idaho” but then attends large indoor events, such as the Republican state convention and last week’s “Back the Blue” event, where very few people wore masks and there was little or no social distancing.

Meanwhile, the state looks the other way when it comes to other events or people not wearing masks, such as this weekend’s “Freakshow of Amateur Wrestling” tournament at the Ford Idaho Center, featuring 3,500 wrestlers from 40-plus states.

So we have groups free to hold large events with no consequence while events like a Boise State football game follow the rules and won’t allow fans.

There’s confusion and no consistency. Idaho appears headed for a reckoning like we’ve not yet seen during this pandemic.

Idaho is in the red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000, according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s Oct. 4 report, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

We are now eighth-highest in the rate of new cases in the country and the third-highest in rate for test positivity, according to the report.

The state’s seven-day moving average has climbed to 527.6 cases per day. The average was 263.9 just three weeks ago.

It took Idaho four months to hit 200 deaths from COVID-19. It has taken just two months to add 300 more deaths, topping 500 this month.

Idaho has a mish-mash of mask recommendations and mandates, with little to no guidance from the state, which chooses instead to punt the problem down to local public health districts, cities and school boards.

The result is an unsustainable patchwork. Ada County has a mask mandate, while neighboring Canyon County has only a recommendation. Want to have a massive event with a lot of people without wearing a mask? Just move it on over to Canyon County.

Contrary to advice from public health experts on stopping the coronavirus spread, the Emmett School Board of Trustees voted to reduce quarantine guidelines from the recommended 14 days to just five. The decision was not supported by the local health district or the state framework.

School districts are making seemingly random — and disparate — decisions about in-person, online-only or hybrid models while resuming high school sports.

This is what a lack of leadership looks like.

Idaho is now seeing spikes not just in large population areas; we’re seeing big spikes in smaller counties, illustrating that the coronavirus doesn’t know when it hits a county line and highlighting the futility of leaving these decisions up to individual districts or cities.

Further, these small-community outbreaks cause bigger problems because the health care system is not as robust as it is in larger communities.

Since June 11, Idaho has stayed in Stage 4, which frankly doesn’t really mean much anyway and in reality clearly isn’t doing much to stop the spread of the disease. While awareness and education likely helped slow the spread back in the end of August, beginning of September, Idaho probably never should have left Stage 3 statewide to begin with.

Facing pressure from his radical extreme faction of his party, Little likely would never move the state back into Stage 3, so we can expect a continued uptick in COVID-19 cases while we languish in Stage 4.

Little has talked a lot about “coronavirus fatigue,” about people, in particular adults, getting tired of hearing about the virus and getting tired of all of the rules, and letting their guard down anytime they think there is good news or we’ve turned a corner.

As numbers show, we haven’t turned a corner. And the fact is, while the governor talks about fatigue and warning people not to fall victim to it, he also promotes this fatigue, by trumpeting nothing but our good economy and improving unemployment numbers at press conferences, by attending huge rallies that pose a big risk, by not emphasizing how dire the situation still is, by not wearing a mask religiously when he should (such as when he visited the White House, and when he goes to an event where the audience will obviously be anti-mask), by not calling out the people ignoring the guidelines.

Thirty-three states require people to wear face coverings in public to curb the spread of COVID-19, according to AARP. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also have mask orders in place.

During a recent town hall hosted by AARP Idaho, several callers confronted Little, frustrated that not much was being done, in their minds, to cut the spread of COVID-19, according to Boise State Public Radio. Many called for a statewide mask mandate.

Two Idaho organizations affiliated with doctors wrote letters in August calling on Little and his COVID-19 task force to issue a statewide mask mandate.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Idaho’s strategy is not working.

Idaho needs a statewide mask mandate — and soon. Even as our numbers are climbing already, we’re heading into the colder winter months, when people head inside. Our situation promises only to get worse.

Even the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s report issued to governors last month advocated mask usage and even encouraged doling out fines in Idaho.

Despite the fears over those few obstinate residents who will no doubt ignore the mandate, a mask mandate will have an effect, even if difficult to enforce. It would have the same effect as something like a seat belt law. Chances are you won’t get caught and ticketed for not wearing a seat belt, but just the knowledge of a law acts as a deterrent. A statewide mask mandate would accomplish that, as well.

It is long past time for people to argue masks don’t make a difference. The fact some people do not seem to care about their own possible illness and long term disability from COVID-19 gives them no right to endanger the lives and long-term health of others.

And that’s where Idaho is headed if we continue with the status quo. We’re headed in the wrong direction.

Gov. Little, to prevent as many serious illnesses and deaths as we can, issue a statewide mask mandate now.

Online: Idaho Statesman

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Officers in Tapp case should be criminally investigated

Post Register

Oct. 11

Why have no former Idaho Falls Police Department officers been prosecuted for their conduct leading to the conviction of Christopher Tapp? Why has there not been even an announcement of an investigation?

Why have they not even had the decency to apologize?

This week, Tapp finally filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages for his wrongful conviction and 20 years of false imprisonment. Hopefully, he will be awarded damages proportionate to the harm he suffered. And that harm was unimaginable.

When we send someone to prison, what we experience is that they simply disappear from our society. They experience something different.

According to his lawsuit, Tapp suffered repeated physical assaults in prison because he had been falsely labeled as a sex offender.

He caught tuberculosis, a potentially deadly disease, but wasn’t treated for it until after his release.

At one point he became gravely ill but did not receive treatment until he was so sick he couldn’t move.

He lost many of his teeth due to a lack of dental care.

He suffers from permanent hearing loss because prisons are deafening.

He could not be with his father when he died, nor attend his funeral.

Everything that makes up a life between the ages of 20 and 40 was stolen from him.

That is worse than any burglary. It is worse than armed robbery. It is worse than assault. It is worse than kidnapping. For these crimes, the sentences range between years and life in prison.

All this happened because former IFPD officers fed Tapp specific details of the crime and then claimed in court that he had spontaneously confessed these non-public facts, information only the killer could know. (If you have any doubts, watch the interrogation videos. They leave no question.) This lie is what the Idaho Court of Appeals called the “crux” of the state’s case against Tapp when it refused to release him in 2010.

That lie is perjury at the very least, though prosecution on that charge may be impossible because of the statute of limitations.

But if there was any plan or agreement to lie, or to keep Tapp falsely imprisoned, it’s criminal conspiracy. It’s quite possible that continuing acts in furtherance of that conspiracy were committed in the last five years. That should be a sufficient basis for a criminal investigation, at least.

Put these former officers in an interrogation room. Offer them deals in exchange for evidence against the other suspects, as is standard practice in criminal investigations. Subpoena their text messages and emails. See what they say.

It is good that Tapp has finally filed his lawsuit. It is good that he is likely on his way to getting some compensation, inadequate no matter how high the dollar figure, for the things that were done to him.

But money cannot settle the matter.

These former officers deserve to face justice. If there is no law that allows for prosecution, if the law allows cops to get away with lying under oath to put an innocent kid behind bars — precisely because they put him in prison for so long that the statute of limitations has expired — then the law is manifestly unjust and should be changed.

If none of the former officers are even investigated for these crimes, then our society has two standards of justice: one for the police and one for everyone else. That is a society in which the rule of law does not exist, and gruesome misconduct like that which occurred in the Tapp case will have no deterrent penalty.

We again call on Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, U.S. Attorney Bart Davis and the Civil Rights Division of the FBI to begin a criminal investigation into the officers involved in Tapp’s conviction, as well as a systematic review of the cases they handled to find evidence of further wrongful convictions.

Because, almost certainly, there are others.

Online: Post Register