While Idaho’s Republican Gov. Brad Little was out of state Thursday, the lieutenant governor issued an executive order banning mask requirements.
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a Republican who last week announced a run for governor, signed the executive order while Little was at a Republican conference in Tennessee.
She said in a statement that she was acting as acting governor and that the executive order prohibits the state or other jurisdictions such as school districts from imposing mask mandates.
Idaho had never required that masks be worn statewide, though some cities and other jurisdictions had mandated them.
A message seeking comment from the governor’s office was not immediately returned Thursday evening.
“The Lt. Governor did not make Governor Little aware of her executive order ahead of time,” the governor’s office told NBC affiliate KTVB of Boise that
The statement to the station did not say whether Little would rescind the order, but it noted that there has not been a statewide mask mandate.
“Idahoans value local control and the local approach to addressing important issues,” Little’s statement said. “An expanded statement from the Governor’s Office on the Lt. Governor’s executive order will be made available after a more thorough review of this executive action.”
Some cities that had required masks have already lifted them. Boise, the state’s largest city and capital, on May 14 said it would no longer require masks.
A number of other states, including Democratic-led Minnesota and New Jersey, have lifted or are largely lifting statewide mask requirements as vaccinations have risen, and in the wake of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that vaccinated people don’t need masks in many settings.
McGeachin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening. She tweeted that the executive order was “to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses.”
McGeachin told The Associated Press that “I’ve been listening to people all across the state with the concern about, especially, why are little kids being forced to wear masks in school.” She said she hoped Little would allow it to stand.
Idaho has had more than 191,800 cases of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, and 2,090 people have died, according to the state health department.
The executive order signed by McGeachin does not apply to federal buildings, hospitals or health care facilities.
McGeachin announced on May 19 that she is running for governor. The election for governor is in 2022.
Little, who was also lieutenant governor and elected governor in 2018, has not made clear if he will seek another term.
The Associated Press contributed.