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'Misguided and dangerous': Bonner County health care workers respond to sheriff's 'stay-at-home' comments

“We are aware that some would like you to relax and let life return to normal. We wish that were possible,” the letter from North Idaho health care workers reads.
Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler

BONNER COUNTY, Idaho — Doctors and other health care workers in Bonner County have written a letter to the public after prominent North Idaho leaders voiced opposition to Idaho’s stay-at-home order.

This comes after Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler asked Gov. Brad Little to reconsider the order.

"I would just really like to see a peaceful transition to normalcy here in the state of Idaho," Wheeler told KREM's Mark Hanrahan last Thursday.

Wheeler wrote in a letter to Little that he does not believe “suspending the Constitution was wise because COVID-19 is nothing like the Plague.”

“I do not believe that suspending the Constitution was wise, because Covid-19 is nothing like the Plague,” Wheeler wrote.

Idaho Rep. Heather Scott also echoed some of Wheeler’s concerns in a post on the Idaho Legislature's website.

In their response published in local newspaper The Bonner County Daily Bee, health care workers in Bonner County say they wish normal life could return – but it isn’t that simple.

“We are aware that some would like you to relax and let life return to normal. We wish that were possible,” the health care workers’ letter reads in part.

At last check, only two residents in Bonner County have been diagnosed with the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But health care workers write in the letter that unidentified cases will spread the most disease.

“According to the Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho has gone from less than 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases to over 1,000 cases in the last 20 days, including 80 infected health care providers up from 47 on April 4. Do not doubt the power and contagion of this virus. This is our modern plague,” the letter reads.

RELATED: Bonner Co. Sheriff wants stay-home order reversed, claims 'COVID-19 is nothing like the Plague'

The letter claims that Kootenai Health’s intensive care units were completely full on April 3 and recovery rooms were being used as an overflow ICU. Many of the patients have Influenza A and other medical needs unrelated to COVID-19, according to the letter.

“Our regional ICU capacity is already stretched and the pandemic has yet to fully penetrate our area. This is a health emergency! We are rising to this challenge,” the letter reads. 

Health care workers also outlined ways that the public can help, including employees of essential businesses that have contact with the public and residents going to the grocery store, pharmacy or other public places wearing homemade face masks; businesses providing masks for the public; citizens sewing homemade masks for health care workers; and proper handwashing.

“It appears to us that the citizens of Sandpoint support the CDC and Governor Little with mask use and respecting the stay at home order. Those of us visiting essential businesses today have noticed a substantial increase in mask use," Sandpoint Women's Health OB/GYN Amelia Huntsberger, who helped pen the letter, wrote to KREM in a statement.

RELATED: How to make your own face mask without a sewing machine

Huntsberger said Sandpoint Super Drug even offered to donate 500 face shields to Bonner County EMS providers in response to the letter.

“Others have called offering to sew gowns in addition to masks. Clearly the medical community has demonstrated what can happen when we work together to protect our community. We believe that the opinions of some of our elected officials are misguided and dangerous,” Huntsberger's statement continued.

Homemade masks can be dropped off in the foyer of Bonner General Health’s patient registration entrance on Third Avenue. There are three bins for donations of masks and other requested items, and a clipboard to leave your name and contact information so they can properly thank you for the support. Written making instructions are available at the drop-off site.

Health care workers say they need 100 masks to launch their effort and Bonner General Health will distribute masks to businesses in need once they have enough for hospital workers. 

RELATED: Ammon Bundy, who led Oregon standoff, holds gatherings amid Idaho 'stay home' order