May 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Idaho lieutenant governor bans mask mandates while governor is out of state

 Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin speaks during a mask burning event at the Idaho Statehouse.

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

While Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) was out of state at a conference, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R) issued an executive order Thursday banning mask mandates in school and public buildings, AP reports.

Why it matters: Little never issued a statewide mask mandate, but there have been some in counties, cities and schools. McGeachin announced last week she was running for governor, challenging Little who has only served one term, and her order could appeal to far-right voters in the state.

  • Little's office told AP that McGeachin did not tell the governor about the order in advance.
  • “Throughout the pandemic, Gov. Little has been committed to protecting the health and safety of the people of Idaho and has emphasized the importance of Idahoans choosing to protect our neighbors and loved ones and keeping our economy and schools open,” Little spokesperson Marissa Morrison said

Background: In March, McGeachin participated in an anti-mask protest, the Washington Post reported, and she suggested last year that the pandemic “may or may not be occurring."

  • According to AP, Idaho has recorded more than 190,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and roughly 2,000 deaths.

What she's saying: “I’ve been listening to people all across the state with the concern about, especially, why are little kids being forced to wear masks in school,” McGeachin told AP.

  • “My oath to the Constitution is to protect those rights and freedoms of the individual, and I’ve never supported any type of a mandate on the individual, especially when it comes to health care choices.”
  • McGeachin said she had contracted the virus in 2019 and now has a "natural immunity," per AP.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin issued an executive order banning mask mandates, not face masks.

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