Tuesday, September 22, 2020
This is Not the Time to Be Playing Russian Roulette
Monday, March 23, 2020


The streets of Ketchum were noticeably empty Sunday as Blaine County residents seemed to take to heart the game of Russian roulette they’re playing every time they go to the post office.

“Even if someone you encounter didn’t have the virus yesterday, that doesn’t mean they won’t have it today,” said one health care provider. “Right now, we have to act like everyone could be that lone bullet in the chamber.”

Jeanne Mowlds started out the day in her Sun Valley condo by praying for a friend who had been hospitalized with coronavirus. Then she texted messages full of emojis of hearts and hands shaped in prayer to friends, trying to lift their spirits.

“Inch by inch. Life is a cinch,” she wrote.

Across town a part-time Ketchum resident packed his SUV and headed for his other home in Seattle.

“I hope to be back in June,” he said, not altogether convincingly.

As the mid-morning temperature climbed above freezing, David Hitchin and his wife Jill grabbed their classic Nordic skis and their golden lab and headed out for the ski trails—something they’ve done to stay sane and healthy ever since Blaine County was ordered to stay in place.

“A dog is the only exercise machine you can’t ignore,” said David Hitchin.

Some of the things that normally irk people, like trying to find a parking space, are now the farthest thing from people’s minds as Blaine County deals with 21 confirmed cases of coronavirus. There wasn’t a car parked on either Main Street or Sun Valley Road at high noon Sunday.

The traffic lights at Sun Valley Road and Main Street cycled through without a single car sitting waiting. And Sun Valley Road’s church alley, where churchgoers had been warned a week earlier they would get tickets if they parked there, was empty, as were the churches.

One man stormed into the Ketchum Post Office, his face covered in a mask and ski goggles, and ranted  about how his life was being put at risk because the post office refuses to offer home delivery. And only a few shoppers walked past an Associated Food truck making a delivery at Atkinsons’ Market.

Fishermen spaced out along the Big Wood River, while solitary dog walkers spread out across the ski trails at Lake Creek. Bicyclists whooshed past one another on the bike path but no one stopped to chat.

Even as Blaine County residents seemed to hunker down following stay-in-place guidelines, The Idaho Statesman called for Gov. Brad Little to get serious about coronavirus.  

As of Sunday, Idaho remained one of only five states that have not closed all schools, the others being Wyoming, Iowa, Maine and Nebraska.

The Idaho Statesman called for the governor to follow the lead of other states in closing restaurants and bars, schools and hair dressers across the state. A mandatory isolation for all Idahoans, not just Blaine County residents, is the smart thing to do, experts say, given how Italy’s piecemeal attempts to isolate towns didn’t work.

“Why would we drag our feet in responding? To wait and see if things get better? That is unlikely. To wait until things get worse? That’s a bad idea,” The Statesman said.

The Idaho Hospital Associations says Idaho has 2,800 acute care beds, including 555 intensive care beds.  That may not be enough if even conservative estimates from infectious disease experts are accurate, one Boise doctor warned in an op-ed piece in The Statesman.

Even if 80 percent have just mild or moderate illness, the remaining 20 percent will remain hospitalization. And 5 percent will require intensive care.

If just 10 percent of the population caught the coronavirus, that’s 3,500 ICU patients, noted Dr. Scott Snyder, a neonatologist at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. And even young adults are ending up on ventilators.

In reality, the most reliable estimates suggest between 40 percent and 70 percent of Idahoans are likely to get the virus, he added.

Outside Idaho there have been disturbing reports of young German virus rebels throwing corona parties in which they cough at older people. But there has been some positive news, as well:

  • A 102-year-old woman has recovered from the illness.
  • TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” are giving hospitals their face masks, even as others are using 3D printing to make face masks andvalves connecting respirators to oxygen masks.
  • The reduction in pollution from transportation and factories not only cleared the water in the Venice canals but probably saved the lives of 4,000 children under five and 73,000 adults over 70 over the past two months in Beijing, according to climate activists. Activists hope some of the economic stimulus packages offered for the coronavirus might be used for investments in clean energy technologies.



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