Why an Idaho Ski Destination Has One of the Highest COVID-19 Infection Rates in the Nation
Blaine County, Idaho, for example, which is roughly the size of Delaware, has just three hundred and ninety-nine confirmed cases and two deaths. But, with approximately twenty-two thousand full-time residents, the county’s infection rate is now the highest in the nation—greater even than those of New York’s Westchester and Rockland counties, and possibly on par with earlier pandemic epicenters in northern Italy and Wuhan, China. And, as in Italy, the situation is exacerbated in the aging resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley, where the average ages of residents are forty-six and sixty, respectively.
Idaho’s doctors and nurses face the greatest danger. More than fifty health-care workers have tested positive in the state’s South Central Health District, about forty of whom work for the St. Luke’s hospital system in Blaine County and Twin Falls to the south. Jesse Vanderhoof, a nurse at St. Luke’s hospital, in Ketchum, was administering nasal swabs at a drive-up testing site before he became sick. As his condition deteriorated, on March 24th, his wife dropped him back at the E.R.; hours later, she received a call saying that her previously healthy, thirty-nine-year-old husband had suffered a seizure and was boarded onto a life flight bound for Boise. He was put on a ventilator for several days before regaining the strength to breathe on his own.
Brent Russell, one of two E.R. physicians at St. Luke’s in Ketchum who tested positive, battled a hundred-and-four-degree fever with shaking chills; he would awaken in the middle of the night, unable to catch his breath. Russell wrote a letter to the local Idaho Mountain Express pleading with a community that, in his view, was either unable or unwilling to adapt to the new rules of the pandemic. “People were not taking this seriously,” he told me. “I would look out the windows of my house and see groups of people talking and congregating in the street.” As his wife, son, niece, and nephew all came down with symptoms of covid-19, Russell applauded Governor Little’s abrupt stay-at-home order, a decision that caught many by surprise in a state known as a refuge for anti-government individualists. “We need a heavy hand right now,” Russell said. “We need all forces thrown at stopping this thing.”
A ski resort is, in many ways, an ideal breeding ground for an epidemic. Skiing and snowboarding may look from a distance like solitary pursuits; the helmets, goggles, and neck warmers may be assumed to function like alpine hazmat suits. But, at major resorts, stretches of brisk, wintry liberation on the slopes are interrupted by long chairlift and gondola rides, during which people sit shoulder to shoulder and knee to knee with a perpetually rotating cast of strangers. The National Brotherhood may not have brought the virus to Idaho, but it did bring the party, and, in ski towns across America and the rest of the world this winter, the two have gone hand in hand. Ski-resort areas in California, Colorado, and elsewhere “show higher infection rates than more densely populated cities nearby,” Adventure Journal noted, including Mono County, California, the home of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, which now has the highest per-capita rate of covid-19 in the state. In Europe, several governments tracked hundreds of coronavirus cases to one Austrian ski town, with some epidemiological reports identifying beer-pong tables as a potential source of infection. In Mexico, the chairman of the Mexican Stock Exchange tested positive after returning from a ski trip to Colorado’s Vail resort.
Tensions between big-spending outsiders and the local workforce that relies on their spending define life in any vacation town. But, in a pandemic, the calculus is changing. In the Idaho Mountain Express classifieds, one local summed up the situation in Biblical terms: “To everyone coming here to ‘ride out the storm,’ please stay in for 2 weeks before you immerse yourself in our town. Please don’t buy a 3-month supply of groceries, leaving little for the rest of us. Don’t be a plague of locusts.”
ER Doctor Issues Dire Warning
EYE ON SUN VALLEY
By Karen Bossick
‘Everyone needs to avoid contact with everyone outside their household or we’re not going to stop this thing.
“What I’m seeing is very scary in our emergency department, and that is volumes of patients who are very ill and who we’ve had to admit. Last weekend we admitted four patients in one hour,” Dr. Jim Torres told Dr. Tommy Ahlquist on Ahlquist’s Inspire Excellence podcast this week.
Torres said the beds at St. Luke’s Magic Valley hospital in Twin Falls are being filled up with patients from the Wood River Valley.
“And, if you can imagine, they get their own cases, and Boise gets their own cases filling up the ICUs with sick patients. Then, you know, they potentially could run out of beds, could run out of ICU beds, could run out of ventilators, and then we can get into the crisis mode where New York City is and some of these other big cities. It could happen here.”’
“You can look really well and have this virus and be giving it to other people who aren’t going to do so well… And there it goes,” he added. “You give it to one person. That person gives it to another person and so on and so on and so on. And that’s what’s happened here in our town.”
“It would be a nightmare if Twin and Boise started getting the number of cases Blaine County is seeing because there are so many more people in those towns, he said.
“And a lot more people who could be exposed and who could become ill. That would be a disaster.”
Torres’ plea comes at a time when Ketchum Fire Chief is pleading for volunteers—ski patrollers or others—to drive ambulances. Torres’ stable of paid staff members and volunteers has been decimated due to the coronavirus. The fire department has even borrowed ambulances from the City of Carey and elsewhere to keep up with the demand.
The number of cases in Ada County where Boise sits has climbed past Blaine County’s in the past few days.
Idaho reported 672 cases on Wednesday. It was the largest single-day increase, up from 527 the day before.
Despite the growing numbers in Blaine County, several Eye on Sun Valley readers reported Wednesday that the traffic through Ketchum seems to have grown, not lessened. And supermarkets are bustling.
“No spacing between people as they come in, and I was told that some people come in every day,” said one woman.
“That’s why so many people are still coming down with it. No one is paying attention to the social isolation order. They don’t think they will get it, either because they are younger or they still think it’s a hoax. Someone needs to get word to them to stop. It’s just awful.”
Another woman said she was out on a daily walk near Knob Hill Park when she saw several teens and young adults gathered there.
“I considered going up and talking to them about the importance of social distancing, but I didn’t know them and felt uncertain of my welcome,” she said. “How do we educate kids about this and what can happen if they bring it home to their families or others.”
6.5 EARTHQUAKE FELT ACROSS IDAHO, CENTERED IN CHALLIS.
Felt in Montana, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Nevada.
It was intensely felt in Sun Valley, Idaho.
KTVB/NBC 7 Boise
6.5 magnitude earthquake rattles Idaho and 7 surrounding states
BOISE, Idaho — At 5:52 p.m. Tuesday, the Idaho and states throughout the Northwest were rattled by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake, according to the USGS.
The USGS reports that the epicenter was west of Challis and 73.3 miles north of Meridian.
According to the USGS map, the epicenter of the earthquake was next to Shake Creek and Laidlow Creek in the north-central Idaho mountains.
The USGS had a delay in reporting the earthquake because of social distancing, according to Paul Bodin, the head of the University of Washington seismology lab, who talked to our sister station in Seattle, KING.
KTVB staff felt the possible earthquake from North Boise, Meridian, and Nampa. One of our staff members said her family in Montana felt the earthquake.
People in seven different states reportedly felt the 6.5 magnitude earthquake, according to the USGS’s intensity map.
The earthquake came less than two weeks after a major quake rattled Utah, Idaho’s neighbor to the south. That 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck just outside Salt Lake City, damaging buildings and spurring evacuations.
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean tweeted out “Boise, yes you did feel an #earthquake. City officials are checking all our facilities and public safety officers are conducting structural checks downtown and in our neighborhoods.”
A 4.6-magnitude aftershock was felt after the earthquake throughout Boise and the Treasure Valley.
KTVB contacted several gas stations in Challis, Stanley, and Cascade and they said there was no severe damage to buildings or property there.
The Boise Police Department tweeted that they have not received any reports of damage.
The Custer County Sheriff’s Office told KTVB that they have no reported structural damage at this time.
This is a developing story and this article will be updated when further information is made available.
Just learned about this from my quarantined friend in Italy; helps your egg supply go a little further.
(Apparently this was popular during the Great Depression.)
1 egg…whisk in some water…whisk in 1 tbs of flour until smooth…butter in a pan…cook like a pancake.
More filling, too.
Sun Valley, Idaho: ‘No One Should Come Here’
Blaine County, Idaho, which includes the resort town of Sun Valley, has one of the highest known rates of COVID-19 cases in the West.
‘To hear year-round Sun Valley, Idaho, residents like Justin Malloy tell it, town right now is as crowded as you’d expect to see it in the peak Fourth of July or Christmas seasons. The small airport is packed with private jets. And then there’s the parking lot at the Atkinsons’ Supermarket, one of only two in town where bread and essential cleaning items are particularly hard to come by.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of Washington plates, a lot of California plates, their cars just full of all of their stuff that they’ve brought from out of state,” Malloy says.
This has fueled outrage on social media, and on unusually crowded hiking and ski trails, where locals are wondering aloud whether rich people are fleeing cities to seek refuge in rural Idaho, and unknowingly making the public health crisis here even worse.
“It seems likely that people were fleeing other places and not recognizing that they were then bringing the disease with them from Seattle, or other areas where they might live part time,” says Dr. Josh Kern, vice president of medical affairs for St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center in Ketchum.
While resort towns like this can typically house a lot of tourists or second- and third-home owners, that doesn’t extend to St. Luke’s, which has only 25 beds. The hospital has had dozens of COVID-related admissions and officials warn there are likely many more cases in the community than what’s been diagnosed.
That’s leading to some impassioned pleas to take the recent, strict self-isolation orders seriously.
“No one should come here,” says Dr. Brent Russell, a local emergency room physician.
Russell should know. He has COVID-19. He’s been very sick, so can’t work at this critical time.
“We have a really high percent of COVID spreading among the population here,” Russell says. “If you come here, that is putting your life at risk and it’s putting other lives at risk.”
The hospital is part of a regional health care system, St. Luke’s, so for now, support has been coming from hospitals in Twin Falls and Boise where there aren’t as many known cases. Yet.
Blaine County COVID rates rival NYC, Wuhan
News analysis: Comparisons are difficult, but the valley has one of the nation’s highest concentration of coronavirus cases
Idaho Mountain Express/Mark Dee
The raw numbers may pale compared to major cities, but Blaine County had the nation’s highest concentration of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nation yesterday, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
And, its calculation is an underestimate.
So, what do you do with that information? “Take this seriously,” according to a group of eight St. Luke’s Wood River emergency physicians. Self-isolate and abide by the shelter-in-place order designed to stem the spread of the disease.
“We want you to know, given the community spread, that you should not wait for the test or test result,” Drs. Terry O’Connor, Malie Kopplin, Deb Robertson, Jim Torres, Brock Bemis, Keith Sivertson, Terry Ahern and Brent Russell wrote in a letter to the Idaho Mountain Express published Wednesday. “There are measures you can take now to protect yourself, your family, friends, neighbors and way of life. Self-isolate. Don’t leave the Wood River Valley to recreate elsewhere. It’s well known that we have a very high rate of infection; 5B plates are not going to be welcomed outside of Blaine County. Moab and Twin Falls don’t need our virus. Stay home. Save lives.”
Blaine County Deals With Coronavirus Hot Spot As Other Rural Idaho Communities Prepare For the Worst
Boise State Public Radio/Rachel Cohen
St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center suspended normal operations last week. Coronavirus screening sites, a walk-in-clinic and the emergency department remain open.
If a patient needed to be hospitalized for symptoms of coronavirus in the Wood River Valley today, they’d most likely be transported — by ambulance or helicopter — to a hospital in Twin Falls an hour and a half south, or one in Boise two and a half hours west.
Blaine County — home to Sun Valley, with a population of about 22,000 — is the epicenter of Idaho’s coronavirus outbreak.
“So currently any patient who would be that sick would not be maintained up here. We would be transferring them either down to Magic Valley or Boise,” said Dr. Frank Batcha, a family physician at the St. Luke’s clinic in nearby Hailey.
Patients seeking care for routine check-ups, cancer screenings or caesarean sections are also being directed to other hospitals.
“Are we concerned about not having enough resources? Absolutely. And that’s why we’re trying to conserve what we have right now, particularly our manpower,” said Batcha, who, these days, is typically clad head to toe in personal protective gear as he screens patients for COVID-19 in the parking lot of the Ketchum hospital.
St. Luke’s Wood River is part of the statewide St. Luke’s Health System with seven hospitals, which means staff and supplies can, and are, being dedicated to the Ketchum hospital.
“If we were an isolated, rural hospital, we would be crippled right now, because we have so many people who are out with the illness,” Russell told Boise State Public Radio’s George Prentice.
But strains extend beyond the hospital. Bill McLaughlin, the Ketchum Fire Chief who also oversees EMS services for the north half of the valley, said around a quarter of his paramedics are out because they have coronavirus symptoms or have potentially been exposed in the community.
“We only have a couple paramedics on each day, and if, for some reason, one of them gets sick, then that entire shift would be knocked out for 14 days,” McLaughlin said.
Many volunteers who used to help out are staying home, too.
‘April 1st is an important date for the census. It’s the date you should use as a reference when completing the census — that means filling out information for anyone who lives in your household as of that date.
It’s important to make sure your household is counted! The data from your community is used to determine how many congressional districts your state will have for the next decade. With 435 representatives across the country, states could gain or lose a district based on population changes.’
Get counted! Fill out the 2020 Census here: https://my2020census.gov
As our country continues to be ravaged by COVID-19, states and political leaders are trying to secure the safety of our elections. In Idaho, we can now request an absentee ballot for the state primary for May 19th. COVID-19 is changing daily, hourly. Confirmed cases grows exponentially. Social distancing and increased infections could compromise our voting locations.
VOTE EARLY IDAHO
Protect Yourself. Protect Your Neighbors.
IS AS EASY AS 1, 2, 3.
Ballots will be sent no earlier than 45 days before the May 19 Primary Election.
Please allow 10 – 14 days for your ballot to arrive once they begin to be sent out.
While you wait, feel free to share this page with your friends and family.
Make sure you use the #VoteEarlyIdaho hashtag.
To secure your vote for the primary follow the link:
A friend once shared with me, “Music is the art of now.” Indeed.
Wood River Valley, Sun Valley, Idaho
Spur has opened a fund to receive charitable donations that will be directed toward urgent needs in the community arising from the coronavirus pandemic. The Community Response Fund will distribute grants to local organizations providing important services to those impacted by the virus.
Spur will make sure your generosity has a powerful and strategic impact.
This includes Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey
Ketchum Town Square
Posted by Mother Lea at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hailey, Idaho.
The local celebration actually started during Hailey’s Fourth of July Parade.
STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK
‘The Idaho Women’s 100 Kickoff Event will take place at noon Friday, March 13, in downtown Hailey. Another will take place in Ketchum at the same time.
The event commemorates the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving most women in America the right to vote.
The Ketchum event will start at noon at Ketchum Town Square.
Hailey’s event will also start at noon. Participants will gather in front of the Hailey Public Library and march to the Old County Courthouse where a Governor’s Proclamation celebrating Idaho Women’s Day will be read.
Speakers will also speak to the occasion.
At 12:30 p.m. participants will ring bells, including the large bell at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. The bell ringing is a symbolic gesture that unites all Idahoans in commemorating the right of women to vote.
“This is a big day for our country and for all the women who make it great,” said organizer Bob McLeod, president of the Blaine County Historical Museum. “We hope everyone takes a moment to join us in ringing a bell to celebrate.”
Numerous events commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment will be held around the state during 2020, organized by the Idaho Women in Leadership and the Idaho State Historical Society. Among them exhibits on Idaho’s “First, First Family” and “Miss Fletcher’s Botany Expedition” in the Idaho State Capitol.
Questions? Call the library at 208-788-2036 or the museum at 208-788-1801.’
If you attend, please remember pandemic social distancing guidelines and keep three feet apart from each other. -dayle
Please note: The CDC is not accurate and has removed particular pages in relation to testing, i.e., the site has been politically compromised by the current WH administration. For more complete information visit the Johns Hopkins website or the World Health Organization [WHO] website. –dayle
From the state of Idaho:
“Idaho public health officials are monitoring the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation very closely. Idaho is currently reporting no cases. [As of 3.9.20 at 1 pm.]
Officials are working with CDC and other states and are also in regular communication with Idaho public health districts and healthcare providers around the state. We are prepared to respond if someone is sick or exposed.”
Idaho’s South Central Public Health District has opened an informational hotline for concerns about the novel coronavirus:
Th hotline will be accessible from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The South Central Public Health District is also updating information on its website, phd5.idaho.gov, and its social media pages.
From James Dawson at Boise State Public Radio:
Idaho health insurers Blue Cross, Regence, SelectHealth, Pacific Source and Mountain Health Co-Op are all voluntarily waiving costs for #Coronavirus testing. There are still no confirmed cases here and 10 people are still being monitored. @RadioDawson
- Blue Cross
- Pacific Source
- Mountain Health Co-Op
Idaho still has no cases of COVID-19. Public health officials are monitoring 6 people for #coronavirus symptoms and have tested a total of 3. For the latest Idaho-specific information, visit:
From Idaho Governor Brad Little:
for official information regarding Coronavirus in Idaho.
The word shrove is a form of the English word shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Shrove Tuesday was named after the custom of Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent.
Pancakes were traditionally eaten on the day before Ash Wednesday because they were a way to use up eggs, milk, and sugar before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. … Many people “give something up” during Lent as a way to prepare for Easter.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
And if a storm should come
And if you face a wave
That may be the chance for you to be saved.
Fr. Richard Rohr:
The spiral feeds upon itself. The individual zealot tries to rise above “the rotten, decadent system,”  as Dorothy Day called it, by attempting solutions that usually attack the symptoms. That attempt may make the individual and the state feel moral, but it rarely touches the underlying causes. Think of the policies that led the United States to build a wall at the border instead of honestly asking why people want to come to begin with. Why was a wall terrible in Berlin but salvific in Juarez, San Diego, and the present state of Israel? We criminalize the actions of desperate individuals, but rarely question the global economic systems and untouchable corporations that keep such unequal circumstances in place for their own gain.
In dangerous times like these we have to produce generations of dedicated, courageous, and creative contemplative activists who will join [the conscious collective] to bring radical healing and change to this damaged world, before it’s too late.
If you stick a knife in my back 9 inches and pull it out 6 inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress.
The progress is healing the wound that the blow made.
Can new bus lines chart a course to better travel options in the West?
A European bus company is expanding options for regional travel. High-speed rail could be next.
FlixBus, a European company founded in Germany in 2013, first launched routes in California, Nevada and Arizona in 2018 and has since expanded to Utah, Washington, a sliver of Idaho and Oregon. They’ve entered an increasingly popular industry for city-to-city transport, with competitors like BoltBus, Megabus and the upscale Cabin bus, an overnight sleeper connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles. All of these brands have emerged in the last decade as alternatives to Greyhound, the only nationwide bus service.
To differentiate itself in a growing field, FlixBus targets passengers looking for perks like reliable Wi-Fi and charging outlets. The company also tries to meet younger riders where they are, like on the campus of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. On a chilly December day with low clouds and foggy breath lingering in the air, two CWU students caught the bus heading to Seattle. “It’s way easier to access a bus that comes to your campus,” said Leilani Salu, who was riding FlixBus for the first time. “And even when you get dropped off in places like Seattle, it’s convenient because it’s right next to the light rail.” A driver who worked the Thanksgiving holiday weekend said the buses were packed with students.
In general, Millennials and the now coming-of-age members of Generation Z are more attracted to lifestyles that don’t rely on cars. A 2014 study by the Public Interest Research Group, for example, found that Millennials are less likely to drive and more likely to either use public transit or bike than generations before them were as young adults.
As concerns grow over the environmental impacts of travel, policy solutions could favor bus companies. While figures shift based on capacity, when buses are full they are the most carbon-efficient form of long distance travel in the United States, according to Joseph Schwieterman, the director of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development and an expert on regional transportation. And that could become a big deal as Western states develop plans to rein in and possibly tax carbon emissions. “The single biggest policy to jump-start bus travel would be a fee on carbon use,” he said.