With Idaho’s Governor Out of State, the Lieutenant Governor Bans Mask Mandates

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin signed an executive order while Gov. Brad Little, her political rival, was away at a conference.,


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With Idaho’s governor out of state, the lieutenant governor bans mask mandates.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in Idaho Falls last week. Her order said that wearing masks had done “significant physical, mental, social and economic harm” and that they failed to serve a health or safety purpose.Credit…John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register, via Associated Press

May 28, 2021, 6:33 a.m. ET

In the government equivalent of throwing a party while your parents are out of town, Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, issued an executive order on Thursday banning mask mandates while the state’s Republican governor, her political rival Brad Little, was out of the state at a conference.

Ms. McGeachin, a Republican who recently announced a bid for governor, said she was making the decision as acting governor during Mr. Little’s brief trip to Nashville for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

She signed an executive order forbidding the state, municipalities and public schools from requiring masks. It said that wearing masks had done “significant physical, mental, social and economic harm,” that they failed to serve a health or safety purpose and that they “unnecessarily restrict the rights and liberties of individuals and business.”

Ms. McGeachin did not tell Mr. Little that she would be issuing the order ahead of time, his office said in a statement to KTVB, a television station in Boise, Idaho.

Mr. Little was expected back in Idaho late Thursday and would have more to say “after a more thorough review of this executive action,” his office said in the statement.

The two officials, who were elected separately, recently went three weeks without speaking, according to The Idaho Statesman. Ms. McGeachin has consistently criticized Mr. Little’s measures to contain the virus, decrying restrictions as government overreach.

“The effects of the executive branch’s unilateral decisions will impact us for years,” Ms. McGeachin wrote in a guest essay in The Idaho Statesman this month.

Idaho did not have a statewide mask mandate, but an executive order effective May 21 required masks at long-term care facilities and said they were “strongly recommended” for others.

Mr. Little used an executive action to require social distancing and implement a brief stay-at-home order in March 2020, among other measures.

Mr. Little, who is in his first term, has not announced if he is running for re-election next year, but observers in the state believe he is likely to enter the race. It would set up a Republican race with the same contours as many others across the United States: Ms. McGeachin would be angling for President Trump’s base, while Mr. Little would represent a more moderate wing of the Republican Party.

Idaho has recorded around 192,000 coronavirus cases and at least 2,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

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