Idaho hopes for normalcy ahead

During the 20th century, May 1 evolved from a large celebration known for dancing children plaiting streamers around poles to solitary children stealthily depositing spring flowers on neighbor’s doorsteps to overblown displays of military might. 

This midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice was chosen by early unions as International Workers’ Day, by U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars as Loyalty Day, and by the American Bar Association as Law Day.  

On May Day 2006 Latinos held the Great American Boycott calling for immigrant rights; in 2008, longshoremen protested against the Iraqi War; in 2012, Occupy Wall Street supporters protested economic inequality.

May Day 2020, however, won’t be remembered for celebrations or protests, but as the heroic–or foolish–starting point of the great American effort to re-establish normalcy.   

With polls indicating that 60% of the American people don’t feel the coronavirus danger is over, more than 30 states are easing social distancing restrictions. In an attempt to allay the fears of many, President Trump said it was possible that reopening would result in fewer than 100,000 deaths.  

Should we or shouldn’t we, that is the question. 

Idaho, fortunately, is more ready than most of the nation.  

Thirty-four states had more people die from coronavirus on May 2  than the 63 fatalities that Idaho has totaled over eight weeks. 

It sounds extreme for Michigan to ban motor boats, jet skis and travel to second homes. Yet, Michigan suffered 154 coronavirus deaths Saturday. That brought the state’s total to 4,020, a rate of 404 persons per million. Idaho’s rate is 37.

The U.S. average rate is 203 coronavirus deaths per million.  Twenty-two states have rates under 60.  Four states–Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York–have rates over 500 (https://www.wordometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/).   

Some states are definitely reopening too soon. Iowa opened 77 out of 99 counties the same day its total cases jumped nearly 10%. Georgia, one of the first state’s to reopen, saw its cases jump over 10.5% in three days. 

And, disappointingly, the initial test on remdesivir, the drug that caused a brief stock market surge, shows it decreases symptoms, but not deaths.

Why the pressure to reopen? Protestors would like to think it’s caused by a refusal to accept restrictions on our Constitutional right to assemble. Those who believe in following the money point to states faced with bankruptcy by the costs of unemployment payments for 18.6% of America’s workforce.

People who refuse to return to work because of the COVID-19 danger will not be eligible for state benefits or the extra $600 a week from the Federal government.  Finances will force many to take the same risks for which we’ve honored health care workers and other ‘essential’ employees.

And President Trump has offered some factories government help with any ‘liability,’ i.e. lawsuits resulting from worker deaths, rather than aid for frequent testing and personal protective equipment.

But Idaho is in pretty good shape. The rate of new cases has halved. And coronavirus deaths have been reported in only nine counties; three out of four deaths took place in just four–Ada, Nez Perce, Twin Falls and Blaine. 

Well done, Idaho. May our caution continue to pay off as we reopen step by step, health region by health region.  

I’m ready to don a mask my niece made and take some bold baby steps–having both my eyes (glaucoma) and my teeth checked. 

May all of you who’re returning to work face conditions as safe as possible amid responsible customers and co-workers.