Two letters to the editor last week got my attention. Both suggest that Idaho County residents are not taking COVID 19 seriously enough. “Mask up!” “The numbers are staggering!” and “I’m ashamed of this county for being so stubborn…”, are the sentiments expressed.

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, the conflicting information regarding COVID-19 has left the American public wondering who and what to believe. We have another thing to be divided about, courtesy of the media and various health organizations. I am increasingly frustrated by the numbers that are put out that blur the truth about the virus. There seems to be an apparent effort to keep us in a state of fear, accomplished by putting out the largest COVID-19 numbers possible without any perspective attached.

Recently, an outbreak at the correctional institute in Cottonwood put Idaho County on the map as a ‘hot spot’. These infected inmates held at the North Idaho Correctional Institution at Cottonwood are not Idaho County residents or citizens counted in our census. However, their numbers are calculated into our total, posted on the state and public health websites. And I have to ask why? What is the benefit of suggesting that these folks are out in our communities? Why were there not more details released? Seems like data from this closed/close proximity population would tell us a lot.

The ways the numbers are misrepresented and distorted astound me. Why is there a need to put out the biggest number possible (including numbers from months ago)? Why not put a more important number up front that folks should really consider, such as how many infected people are out there right now (the number of folks that you might run across in the grocery store)?

Why only report numbers of infected people — without listing how many are now being tested? Why cover up the fact that the positive test numbers are up because more are being tested?

Why not report how many total infected people are asymptomatic? Is it because that number might be more than 90 percent plus?

Why are we not told how many are currently being treated in our local rural hospitals? Maybe because there are none — and what kind of fear does that instill?

Perhaps the most disturbing to me is the numbers reporting deaths that are “COVID-related.”

With this virus, “confirmed COVID-related deaths include decedents with positive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) laboratory testing results.” Anyone who dies — no matter the real cause of death — and is tested positive for COVID-19 is reported as a COVID-19 death. “Probable deaths include decedents without a positive PCR lab test who either had: (1) COVID-like illness and evidence of exposure to the virus, or (2) the death certificate listed COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 as contributing to death.”

Huh? Before COVID-19, people died of heart attacks or cancer, even if they’d had a recent bout of influenza. Their deaths were not listed as “flu” or “flu-related.”

When hospitals are incentivized to report patients with even the slimmest connections to COVID-19 so they can get federal kickbacks, there’s a problem.

This virus will be with us forever, like influenzas and the common cold. As Americans, citizens of Idaho and residents of Idaho County, we are free to consider the information in front of us, assess how that information impacts each of us (am I in a high-risk category?), and determine how we each will move forward. Some may feel they need to protect themselves by wearing a mask for the rest of their lives.

The majority of Americans are not sheep. We are President Donald Trump supporters who recognize that there are some hoping to lead America to economic slaughter through the gross misrepresentation of COVID-19 numbers.

Conspiracy? I’m not saying that.

But bureaucracy at its finest? Absolutely.

By Commissioner Skip Brant, chair, Idaho County Commissioners

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