KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho —
Elected officials in North Idaho are pushing back against Republican Gov. Brad Little's stay-at-home order as protests over restrictions erupt nationwide.
This comes as more than 1,000 protesters gathered at the Idaho Statehouse Friday afternoon in defiance of Gov. Little's extension of the order through April 30.
The order requires everyone in the state to self-isolate at home if possible to curb the spread of coronavirus. It applies to all citizens, not just those who are sick.
Healthcare workers, public safety workers, and other "essential" workers may still go to work, and people will be allowed to leave their homes to obtain or provide essential services.
In addition to extending the stay-home order, Little also mandated that any out-of-state travelers to Idaho self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the state. An exception is in place for those performing essential services, and those who live in one state but work in another.
Kootenai County Commissioner Leslie Duncan, who represents District 3, wrote a letter over the weekend expressing that she "respectfully disagrees" with Gov. Little that the stay-at-home order should remain in effect for the Idaho Panhandle.
She told KREM's Taylor Viydo that she is speaking on behalf of herself rather than all Kootenai County commissioners.
In the letter, Duncan argues that coronavirus has not caused the same health care challenges in Kootenai County as those around the country and globe.
"While many may argue the shutdown is for the health and safety of the public, more argue that the loss of jobs, increase in crime (specifically drug use and domestic violence), and irreparable damage to our economy will cause more loss of life than the Coronavirus," Duncan wrote.
Duncan told Viydo that Kootenai County revenue is down by about $30,000, most of that tied to various fees and and building permits.
Duncan added in her letter that "death statistics indicate that COVID-19 will cause significantly fewer deaths than the flu, car accidents, suicide and abortion."
According to data compiled by The Washington Post, weekly COVID-19 deaths climbed past those from accidents and chronic lower respiratory disease into April. Last week, COVID-19 killed more people than normally die of cancer in the U.S. in a week. Only heart disease was likely to kill more people that week.
There were more than 759,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 40,000 deaths in the U.S., with more than 70,000 recoveries. More than 3.8 million tests have been conducted nationwide.
Worldwide, there have been 2.4 million cases and 165,000 deaths.
As of Monday morning, forty-five people have died among 1,581 coronavirus cases in Idaho.
Duncan says in the letter that she is arguing for personal responsibility, adding that she has advocated for those who are vulnerable to protect themselves and people who have symptoms of the virus to stay at home.
"Don’t for a minute believe that you have the right to tell your neighbor how they need to protect their family. That is an individual personal responsibility each of us is guaranteed through the U.S. and Idaho Constitutions," she wrote.
Duncan said on Monday that she is not advocating for people to avoid following the order.
"My letter indicates personal responsibility should be looked at instead of just a blanket statewide order," she added.
Other Idaho leaders speak out against stay-at-home order
Duncan is not the first elected official in North Idaho to speak out against Gov. Little's order.
On the Sunday following Little's issuing of the order, state Rep. Tim Remington, who is also a pastor, held two services at The Altar Church in Coeur d'Alene.
On April 2, Idaho Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) released a video statement urging her constituents to openly defy the order.
“We have a God-given, constitutional right to peacefully assemble," she said. "That means no one can take that right away from you and you should not be bullied or intimidated to give up your rights.”
More recently, Rep. Scott compared Idaho to Nazi Germany in an episode of “The Jess Fields Show” podcast, where she added that Idaho residents are referring to Gov. Little as "Little Hitler."
"And when you have government telling you that your business is essential or non-essential, yours is non-essential and someone else's is essential, we have a problem there. I mean, that's no different than Nazi Germany where you had government telling people either you were an essential worker or a non-essential worker, and non-essential workers got put on a train,” Scott said.
Scott also shared photos from an apparent protest in North Idaho to her Facebook page on Sunday.
"Governor Little's action to shut down the Bonner County economy and order citizens to stay home from work for 4 cases of the Covid-19 flu is irresponsible!" she wrote.
Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler also wrote an open letter to Gov. Little on April 2, saying the public had been “misled” by public health officials and it is time to "reinstate our Constitution."
“I do not believe suspending the constitution was wise because COVID-19 is nothing like the plague,” Wheeler said in the letter.
"The Plague" or, as it's also known as, "Black Death" or "Bubonic Plague" was the most devastating pandemic recorded in history. It resulted in the deaths of an estimated 50 million people in the 14th century.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says Idaho's stay-at-home order to limit the spread of the coronavirus clearly defined by law. In fact, Idaho code gives the governor the power during a declared state of emergency to restrict the movement of people and access to businesses.
In a statement on Monday, the Panhandle Health District said its leaders will continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Little.
They urge that everyone to stay at home as much as possible in order to slow the spread of coronavirus.