BOISE — During the pandemic, protests against proposed health orders have resulted in canceled health board meetings in Caldwell and Boise.
In response, a group of Idahoans have formed a coalition called The Idaho 97% to show that not everyone opposes restrictions. The group’s online petition calling for “sensible public health measures” has gained more than 11,500 signatures, supporting efforts such as mask requirements, limits on large gatherings and medically informed restrictions on bars, restaurants, schools and businesses.
Boise resident Nathaniel Hoffman, who helped organize the coalition, said he believes most Idahoans are doing their part to try to end the pandemic.
Though the petition demands “state leadership aimed at protecting the public in what is hopefully the final stage of this global pandemic,” Hoffman said the petition isn’t aimed at asking for any specific policies or mandates. He didn’t feel a one-size-fits-all approach was the correct thing to ask from leaders, given that some parts of Idaho are experiencing more spread of the virus than others.
“We feel like there needs to be flexibility,” he said. “We’re not scientists. … We’re just citizens who are concerned about what’s going on here.”
Instead of gathering in large groups, the Idaho 97 Project has been gathering signatures online to show their strength in numbers. The group also placed hundreds of homemade signs in the Central District Health parking lot during last week’s meeting to support the draft public health order, which, in part, would have mandated masks in the district’s four counties. The health district currently mandates masks in Ada and Valley counties. The state’s Stage 2 public health order that’s in effect recommends, but does not require, masks, except in long-term care facilities; it also limits gatherings to 10 people, with exemptions for religious, political and educational activities.
“The signatures here represent the vast majority of us — Idahoans of all stripes — who are home doing our damndest to get through 2020,” the petition says. “We are home with our kids. We are on video calls with our colleagues. We are unemployed and homeless. We speak dozens of languages. We are Indigenous, Black and Brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. And we are you. We are the people of Idaho. We are the 97%.”
Hoffman also said he was fine with disagreement between people — it’s part of the process.
“We need to do it in a way that’s not people taking the law into their own hands,” he said.
Central District Health’s board will meet again Tuesday after canceling last week’s meeting 15 minutes in, as hundreds of people protested at its Boise office, and smaller protests broke out at the homes of some board members.
The Idaho 97% petition addresses those types of situations.
“We also demand that our duly elected government officials be allowed to do their constitutionally mandated jobs, free of intimidation and without putting themselves or their families at risk,” it states.
Hoffman said the project plans to submit the petition to Gov. Brad Little’s office as well as Central District Health on Tuesday.