Sunday, January 24, 2021

The biggest issue needs urgent action

| January 13, 2021 1:00 AM

Not long after Gov. Brad Little's powerful State of the State address Monday, his office sent media a bullet-pointed press release of highlights.

All are important to Idahoans: Tax relief, transportation, education, law enforcement, broadband, water and agriculture, small business, criminal justice investments and capital construction.

What was not listed, though, is the most urgent and important action item needed by our state: Getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of every citizen who wants one.

The governor is taking a lot of heat because Idaho is lagging behind many states in administering the vaccines it's receiving. That's an even bigger problem than the fact that the state is not getting a whole hell of a lot of vaccines.

Some of that heat is unjustified. The state is hamstrung by having signed on to the federal government's distribution system, which as of Monday had sent out more than 24 million doses but fewer than 9 million had been administered. Only one state, West Virginia, opted to go its own way, and guess which state is doing the best job getting its citizenry vaccinated?

West Virginia.

The point is not to beat up state officials for failing to anticipate that Operation Warp Speed would putter along around 14 mph. The point is that we have to do something to get shots in arms, which is the first step in maximizing everything else the governor is prioritizing for 2021.

One of the suggestions that must be pursued is to significantly increase the number of safe places to administer the vaccine. Kootenai Health CEO Jon Ness, an outside-the-boxer, is an advocate of designating the state's 50 hospitals as clinics that would qualify in dispersing the vaccines. That makes sense because hospitals are well-equipped to safely administer the shots, and their accessibility, open seven days a week, is almost unmatched.

According to news reports Tuesday, the White House is open to a broader dissemination approach. Now's the time for the feds and state authorities to work together and dramatically ramp up the RPMs.

For the record, Gov. Little did address the pandemic in detail Monday and on Tuesday afternoon provided a vaccine update. Action is what's needed. Without tremendous focus, more citizens will get sick and die when help was literally at hand.