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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.

Go deeper

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Sep 2, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Ankeny School Board election heightens tension over mask mandates

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The country's deep divide on mask requirements in schools has elevated an Ankeny school board election to a heated culture war.

What's happening: Tensions were already high at Ankeny School Board meetings this last school year. Some parents vehemently opposed the district's mask requirement and one even sued, alleging district officials retaliated against her child because she raised concerns about the policy.

  • But the candidacy of Sarah Barthole, an Ankeny mom who's known for opposing mask mandates and running in the Nov. 2 school board election, has generated unusual attention from Republicans and Democrats outside the Des Moines suburb.

Driving the news: Barthole, who worked with Gov. Kim Reynolds last year to reopen schools, was recently endorsed by the Republican governor.

Of note: Reynolds typically doesn't support candidates in local, non-partisan races.

What she's saying: Barthole said she wants to bring a "new voice" to the school board and give parents decision-making power, according to her campaign’s Facebook page.

  • She didn't respond to Axios' requests for comment.

Meanwhile, marginal hyper-conservative groups have jumped into the fray on their own accord, and encouraged members to send harassing messages to candidates that support masks in schools.

  • Amber Gustafson, a prominent Democratic Iowa activist, shared threats she received on social media after speaking out against Barthole.

Lori Lovstad, an incumbent school board member running for reelection, said this year is a complete 180 from when she first ran for office in 2017.

  • Lovstad, a health care worker who supports masks in schools, said she's dealt with local opposition to her views, including a protest that was held outside her home. But she said there's been "aggressive" messaging from groups outside the community because of her mask views.
  • "Having this national elevation of what should be a local decision is unfortunate from a public health standpoint and a community standpoint," Lovstad said.

Between the lines: Iowa schools aren't allowed to mandate masks because of state law.

  • But a lawsuit as well as the federal government's investigation into Iowa's mask mandate ban could turn the tables.

The big picture: Ankeny's upcoming school board election is just one of many races across the country where COVID mitigation will be on the ballot — whether explicitly or not.

"No-code" miracle for startups

Expand chart
Data: Interactive Advertising Bureau; Table: Axios Visuals

The U.S. has reached a tipping point in its shift from the industrial economy — one that relied on the buildout of hardware — to an information economy that relies on the transfer, storage and implementation of data, according to a new report.

Why it matters: This shift towards a data and information-based economy has allowed more businesses to establish themselves and scale quickly and at a very low cost. As such, the number of jobs created by the commercial internet has more than tripled since 2012.

Amazon's small business shield

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon is touting the success of small sellers on its platform through the pandemic — and warning that antitrust legislation could jeopardize that success and blow up its open-marketplace model.

Why it matters: As online shopping became a lifeline for both businesses and consumers during the pandemic, Amazon reaped big benefits, but also saw its regulatory risk grow.