How Is Idaho Doing? Not Well, B*tch

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty

Dear Idaho, last time I checked, you belonged to what we call the “rational part of the United States” i.e., “not the Southern part.” But Trump’s a hell of a drug. We weep and tear our hair out about filling ICUs in South Carolina and Texas. We talk about low vaccination numbers in Alabama and Mississippi. And Florida… well, a Florida man resisted arrest this summer for feeding a wild alligator, saying, “He’s a good boy… and he loves bagels.” This tells you everything you need to know about Florida’s Covid vaccination rate, political climate, hospitalization numbers, and available ICU beds. Not really. But you can extrapolate.

No one’s talking about Idaho.

But we should be.

During the first week of September, Idaho reached what the Associated Press calls “a grim trifecta”: a record number of ER visits, hospitalizations, and ICU patients. The state is also seeing the highest use of ventilators since the pandemic began. And they haven’t hit peak, say experts, who warn that Covid cases will likely top 30,000 a week in September. That’s more than 1.5% of Idaho’s total population coming down with Covid every seven days. With only 39% of the state fully vaccinated and 46% receiving one dose, Wyoming wins the ‘Murica, Land of Despair Award. But only three states have a fully vaccinated rate of 40%: Mississippi, Alabama — and Idaho. Tie-breaker for State Most Likely To Misuse The Gadsden Flag, Other Than Wyoming? Idaho, with a dismal 45% one-dose vaccination rate, less than Mississippi’s 48% and Alabama’s 51%.

When your state motto can no longer be “Thank God for Mississippi,” you have a fucking problem.

Idaho?!! Yes, Idaho.

Generally, we don’t think of Idaho as a hotbed of cray. But lump them in with the rest of tinfoil hat America. “This is a place that is very attractive to people who have an independent, self-sufficient mindset,” Jeremy Smith said to NPR. “The idea that if anything comes along, you can just take care of it.” Maybe with the help of some horse dewormer.

NPR reports that “Driving around, you see a lot of yellow Gadsden flags that say, ‘Don’t Tread On Me.'” If you haven’t realized by now that this is a bad, bad sign, you haven’t been paying attention to American politics since, oh, before the Trump administration. Out in potatoland, people don’t trust the guv’ment. You know, like the FDA. Fauci. Biden. All those people telling us we should get vaccinated. Reasoning: if they’re saying it, it’s suspicious.

People use words like “Big Pharma” out in Idaho.

“If you attach a death count clock on TV to any crisis it’s going to be a fearfully driven situation,” Brad Sing told NPR. He thinks his mother, who had a brain aneurysm after a blood pressure spike, is “a victim of the vaccine,” and that if your immune system is healthy, Covid isn’t a big deal.

Tell that to Dr. Bill Dittrich of St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center. He says their ICU is overfull of people who were generally healthy. All were unvaccinated.

A recent survey found that a full third of Idahoans say they will not get the vaccine. Meanwhile, at Kootenai Health in Coeur D’Alene, people are being treated in conference centers, classrooms, and hallways.

Crisis Standard Of Care

Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty

Education Images/Universal Image

Idaho’s numbers are so bad that hospitals in the Panhandle and North Central health districts — with Boise-Nampa and Magic Valley regions expected to follow imminently — have implemented crisis standards of care. Short definition, as NPR explains: Hospitals are “rationing care for everyone, no matter their diagnosis.” Crisis standards of care “decide who gets immediate treatment and who has to wait.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, “[w]hen crisis conditions exist, the goal is to ‘gracefully degrade’ services to the minimum degree needed to meet the demands, maintaining the maximum patient and provider safety.” Its goals are to “extend key resources” and minimize “the impact of shortages.” Translation: everyone, no matter what their condition, suffers.

All because people refused vaccination.

This means: two day ER waits for an ICU bed to open up. 100 hours ER waits for an ICU bed to open up. Cancellation of all elective surgeries. Go-aheads for only urgent surgeries, with orthopedic procedures and brain tumor removal usually first to get the axe. Nurses have “high cases loads” and don’t check vital signs as often.

If it gets worse, they could start rationing care: who gets oxygen and who doesn’t. Who gets a ventilator, and who gasps for air.

Idaho’s State Division of Public Health was actually pushed to say, in a press conference: “Be cautious about driving and bike riding and all the things that might cause a significant event where you need to go in for care. Of course, all this comes with a caveat – if you need care, please seek it. But do your best to avoid going to the emergency room.”

So if you’re in Idaho, stay off that rickety ladder. Avoid all heart attacks and strokes. Find some good ol’ pioneer spirit, some whiskey, and stitch that cut yourself. Not really. Maybe. Truth: if I cut myself in Idaho right now, I’d bite a stick while my Eagle Scout husband stitched me up.

No, Really, Idaho Is Batshit

The Associated Press calls Idaho “deep-red”, and most of us generally don’t think about Idaho’s politics outside their four electoral votes, and then only once every four years. Wolf Blitzer flips them red automatically, saying something like, “CNN can now call Idaho for [insert Republican candidate],” as soon as its polls close, which is at the same time that like, several other states’ polls close, and those are probably states we actually care about, so Idaho’s particular brand of batshit flies under the radar.

This particular brand of batshit that has Republican governor Brad Little trying to sue Biden for requiring companies with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccine or testing. In his statement, he rants about government mandates and regulations on business, says “government should stay out of decisions involving employers and their employees as much as possible,” accuses Biden of “driving us further apart,” and claims the president is “out of touch.”

Then he tells everyone to get their Covid vaccines regardless of all that.

But his lieutenant governor Janice McGeachin, who’s running against him in the primary, fell off the deep end a long time ago. When Little told people to “show a little love to their neighbor” and get vaccinated, then announced he was mobilizing the Idaho National Guard and “using federal programs” to bring in hundreds of health-care workers, she called him “shameful.” She’s tried to ban schools and cities from imposing mask mandates and says “people should make their own health care choices.”

So far, no worse than South Carolina, right?

Hold on tight, bitchados.

In Ada County, a pathologist nominated to “a regional health board” has “referred to COVID-19 vaccines as ‘needle rape’ and the ‘clot shot.'” County leaders still have to vote to confirm his appointment. Ada County apparently collects and publicly posts emails received in support of candidates; one such letter from Sumer Aspiazu says Cole has “studied COVID extensively.” Shannon Van Amburg, a “homeschooling mother of three children,” says that she believes Cole “will protect our freedoms and our parental rights to make medical choices for ourselves and our children.” Annie Lohnes of Boise says, “I compel you to elect Dr. Ryan Cole to the Vacancy on the health board. He is the best qualified and will be a clear and educated voice for the people.”

And on. And on. And on. For about 640 emails. The vast majority of which support Cole.

What the fuck, Idaho? We thought you were all giant fields of happy potatoes. Apparently, you’re a sea of anti-vaxxers waving Gadsden flags and keeling over from Covid. Who knew, right? Get your shit together, implement some mask mandates, and stop yelling about Big Pharma. Because with no room, you’re shipping all your extra Covid patients across the border to Washington, which has one of the best vaccination rates in the nation, and people over there are pretty pissed.

Honestly, Idaho? We can’t say we blame them.

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