Finding My Way: We're Over the Cliff Already
FINDING MY WAY

Finding My Way: We're Over the Cliff Already

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The old saying that we should be careful what we wish for—because we might get it—has never been more relevant than today.

These days we are battered on all sides by waves of both political anger and political ineptitude, as a clearly over-his-head president reacts with sputtering insults and cries of treason to the drummed up anger and outrage displayed by both political parties in the impeachment discussion—as the people’s business grinds to a full and complete stop.

And as we watch the chaos unfold it’s probably not the best time to be reminded of what I’m going to say anyway: we brought this all on ourselves.

We allowed ourselves to create career politicians, most of whom have more job security than you or I will ever know. They mingle theater and simplistic political theory as they succumb—as humans usually do—to the siren songs of fame, power, and money. They have fiefdoms to protect—their offices, not the people they were elected to serve—and as the terms turn into decades they will allow nothing to get in their way.

We allowed ourselves to be sucked into the media echo chamber of people who tell us only what we want to hear, and grow rich and powerful in the process. For us, they proclaim a sort of social gospel that requires only our devotion and anger—a much easier philosophy to follow than the mercy, kindness, and self-control asked by Jesus Christ.

We allowed ourselves to believe that the extraordinarily complex problems of our age can be solved by simplistic answers that dance on the tongue. Drain the swamp, make love not war, lock her up, save the planet, build the wall, ban the guns. As rallying cries, they work just fine. But when the complexity required to turn our simplistic visions into reality overwhelms us, instead of buckling down and working it out together we just give up and heap accusatory blame on those with whom we disagree.

Think back: America elected Donald Trump because Congress was “broken”—a true statement, by the way. Anything, it seemed, was better than the plague of Washington’s paralysis.

So a near-majority of us elected someone with one mission—to blow everything up and get us working together again. After all, America reasoned, the presidency really isn’t that hard a job. Why not give the reins to an inexperienced outsider? And many of us liked the way that even though he ran as a Republican, he happily suggested that both parties were full of crap, and once elected he would knock some heads together and get things done.

Instead, the partisan divisions in this country are vastly deeper than in 2016—something at the time I thought could never happen.

As for the people’s business, let’s pull out the scorecard. Infrastructure improvements? Nope. Fixing healthcare? Nope. Immigration reform? Nope. Rudimentary planning for climate change? Nope. Balancing the federal budget? Big fat nope. Returning high paying middle class factory jobs to America? Nope. Improving the rest of the economy? Well, if surviving by working two or three part-time jobs without benefits counts, then maybe.

Meanwhile, the man elected to create unity has disappointingly discovered the political expediency of picking sides. So now everything—every single solitary problem in the United States of America—is the fault of that other despicable party completely filled with evil and contemptable traitors to the American Way.

This is nonsense, and we have allowed it all. In fact, we’ve supported it and cheered from the sidelines.

How will it all end? The optimist in me hopes that voices from all sides will speak up about the need to cooperate and work together, and not be vilified by Fox News and CNN for doing it. We have a lot of work to do in America, and we can’t keep leaving it for career politicians or our grandchildren to fix. Maybe the impeachment inquiry and whatever follows will finally wake us up.

Because in the end, we are the ones who must choose to back away from cliff. It’s far too important a job to leave to Washington.

Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in the Magic Valley. Connect with Chris on Facebook at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.

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Small news organizations in rural states aren’t often on the front line of broad public service journalism, but times are changing and one-or-two person shops can make a lot of difference in public awareness of issues if things come together.

A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.

RAPID-RESPONSE TESTING

That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.

NO COORIDINATED EFFORTS

No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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