Jerry: What do you think about Eastern Idaho Public Health District lifting the mask mandate for Bonneville County last week?

Carrie: I was disappointed. When they issued the mask mandate on July 21, Bonneville County’s active COVID-19 case rate was 10.3 per 10,000 population. But when they lifted it, it was about the same at 9.9 per 10,000 population.

Jerry Scheid and Carrie Scheid

Jerry Scheid and Carrie Scheid

Jerry: When they issued it, the cases were going up. Now they’re decreasing, which is good news.

Carrie: Good point. And EIPH is recommending people continue wearing masks. But it’s a bad time to let down our guard.

Jerry: Why’s that?

Carrie: Because we’re actually starting to win. But we need to buy time to get people vaccinated. And there are two new COVID-19 variants threatening our country that could set us back.

Jerry: I’m no expert on COVID-19, but I learned a lot dealing with serious contagious illness in my cattle business.

Carrie: Like what?

Jerry: Calf scours was a real scourge for us, especially during cold, wet springs. We would separate the sick calves from the healthy, increase hydration and warm straw bedding, and administer antibiotics.

Carrie: OK, but how does that connect to the mask mandate?

Jerry: When we saw our efforts were paying off, we doubled down on what we were doing. As a result, we greatly reduced our losses. The same goes for wearing a mask. Now that we’re making progress, it’s no time to let up the fight.

Carrie: So why do you think the EIPH lifted the mask mandate for Bonneville County?

Jerry: It’s political. The EIPH board is made up of eight county commissioners and one doctor. The doctor was the only one who voted against lifting the mandate. As elected officials, county commissioners worry that unpopular decisions could make them vulnerable at election time.

Carrie: So, why are some people so upset over wearing masks?

Jerry: It started when the federal government initially told people masks didn’t help much protecting you from virus transmission. Apparently, they were concerned that health care professionals wouldn’t get access to masks if there was a run on them by the general population.

Carrie: Then they reversed course, which created a lot of confusion.

Jerry: Equally bad, President Trump, for the most part, refused to wear masks and belittled people who wore them. He politicized what should have been a simple method for reducing the spread of the virus.

Carrie: On social media posts, some say requiring masks is an attack on their personal freedom. Why is it such a big deal to wear a piece of cloth over your lower face to reduce the risk of transmitting a deadly virus?

Jerry: Apparently some are worried big government is trying to control their daily lives. And they resent that. Others, like QAnon followers, believe certain mainstream establishment leaders and celebrities are part of a “secret pedophile cabal” seeking to steal their freedoms.

Carrie: Some Idaho legislators, like northern Idaho Rep. Heather Scott, claimed the pandemic is a hoax. And some anti-vacciners claim the government is plotting to use vaccines to inject microchips into our arms to control us. Unfortunately, people actually believe this nonsense.

Jerry: I wish the EIPH board would reconsider their decision. At the grocery store earlier this week, I already noticed more people weren’t wearing masks.

Carrie: I’m not surprised.

Jerry: I must admit I get a cheap thrill wearing a mask when I go into the bank or liquor store.

Carrie: In all seriousness, this is not the time to stop wearing masks. As someone once said, “It’s indifference and ignorance that stops people from doing the right thing.”

Jerry is a retired farmer/rancher and native Idahoan. Carrie is a retired nonprofit administrator.