Throughout former President Donald Trump's White House, his own health officials and other experts repeatedly urged the public to wear masks after learning the prevalence of asymptomatic transmissions for the virus that's killed nearly 600 thousand Americans.
Trump, however, repeatedly contradicted them from the moment the new guidelines were first announced last year, saying he wouldn't be wearing one in public and emphasizing that they were just recommendations.
Since then, masks have become a designation of political alliance rather than a proven method for slowing the spread of the virus.
And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that vaccinated people can forego masks in most situations, mask mandates at local and state levels remain in effect as officials curtail the lifting of these mandates to the specific needs of their communities.
But Idaho's far-right Lieutenant Governor, Janice McGeachin, suddenly lifted all mask mandates in her state while its Republican Governor, Brad Little, was away at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Tennessee.
The ban extends to schools as well, though minors remain largely unvaccinated. In fact, only 32 percent of all Idahoans are fully vaccinated.
McGeachin's order comes just a week after she announced her campaign for Governor, challenging Little ahead of his reelection campaign in 2022. Her order to lift mask mandates is almost certainly an effort to paint herself as the most pro-Trump candidate due to his continued hold over the Republican party.
The Lieutenant Governor also spoke at a disturbing event this past March where protestors—and their children—burned masks.
This now puts Little in the unenviable position of revoking McGeachin's order and possibly further damaging his reputation among the state's Republican voters, or preserving the order in apparent submission to his Lieutenant Governor and further boosting his opponent's political effectiveness.
Little's office issued a statement that reads in part:
"The Governor's Office is reviewing the Lt. Governor's executive order. Governor Little has never put in place a statewide mask mandate ... Idahoans value local control and the local approach to addressing important issues."
People were not impressed by McGeachin's apparent abuse of power.
Others think it's too early to unilaterally lift these mandates, and that people will die as a result.
It's unclear whether Little will keep the order in effect.
On Friday afternoon, Governor Little repealed McGeachin's order, saying in a lengthy statement:
"An executive order that was issued while I was out of state this week runs contrary to a basic conservative principle – the government closest to the people governs best.
The executive order unilaterally and unlawfully takes away authorities given to the state's mayors, local school board trustees, and others.
Just like the states begrudge federal government mandates, local governments in Idaho resent the state doing the same thing.
The executive order usurps legislative powers. It replicates a bill that was debated considerably in the Legislature but failed, making law with the stroke of a pen.
The action that took place while I was traveling this week is not gubernatorial.The action that took place was an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt."
He went on to note the irony that the order was signed by "a person who has groused about tyranny, executive overreach, and balance of power for months."