Janice McGeachin screenshot press conference 11-24-20

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin speaks during a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.

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Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin on Tuesday touted a proposal she’s crafted to funnel millions of the state’s CARES Act funds to a Nevada company for technology including “walk-through disinfectant cubes” to be installed at the state Capitol. McGeachin, who held a statewide virtual press conference with pastors and business owners around the state to decry current Gov. Brad Little’s coronavirus response and call for Idahoans to gather to celebrate Thanksgiving with “courage,” said with “very high-tech equipment” manufactured by Xtreme Manufacturing in Las Vegas, Nev., “A person can walk through a cube and be disinfected from head to toe, including on the bottom of their feet.”

McGeachin's technological solution, which she touted as allowing for a safe in-person Idaho legislative session amid the pandemic, has been widely discredited. According to the National Institutes of Health, a June study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene found “walk-through sanitation gates” ineffective and potentially dangerous, noting that the practice violates World Health Organization standards. “Fumigation is meant for inanimate objects and surfaces, and it should never be used on people,” the study said.

A May study published by the Royal Society for Public Health, also cited by the National Institutes of Health, said “disinfection tunnels” or “sanitization tunnels” initially were used in China, but proved to be both dangerous and useless for preventing the spread of COVID-19, which spreads through exhaled and inhaled droplets.

The Nevada company also manufactures “relocatable, modular facilities” that McGeachin is proposing Idaho buy for use as emergency room overflow, intensive care units or isolation units. After their use, the three units, on which she proposed spending $8 million, could be “then repurposed for a different cause down the road,” the lieutenant governor said.

McGeachin’s proposal also calls for spending $34,000 for four of the company’s “Xtreme Mobile Air Disinfection System” for use in the state Capitol; $25,500 for three of its air disinfection systems for the proposed mobile units; and $8.64 million to hire 108 nurses to staff the three new mobile units, which would be placed in three different regions of the state.

“There are so many ways that we can help others, but we can’t give of our talents when we keep ourselves from others,” McGeachin declared. “The message we keep hearing in our communities in Idaho and across the country is that we should stay away from each other, and this is so unnatural for us as human beings.”

Xtreme Manufacturing, which is co-located with and shares ownership with Xtreme Cubes Corp., is owned by Las Vegas hotel owner Don Ahern, who hosted a big Trump campaign rally at the firms' Henderson, Nev. plant on Sept. 13 that McGeachin attended; she posted multiple photos from the rally on Facebook. Ahern was fined by the city of Henderson for holding the packed rally in violation of the local COVID-19 gathering restrictions.

McGeachin’s proposal comes to a total of $16.8 million, including $80,000 for two walk-through “Xtreme Opti-Clean Cubes” to be stationed at the entries to the east and west wings of the state Capitol. She submitted it to Gov. Brad Little’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee late last week, but it hasn’t been added to the agenda for CFAC’s upcoming Wednesday meeting.

You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Wednesday's print edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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