Saturday, May 30, 2020
Coronavirus Brings Sun Valley Unwanted Publicity
Skiers have been leaving tributes and making snow angels at the Prairie Creek trailhead where Nordic Patroller Lynn Bockemohle greeted skiers before succumbing to the coronavirus.
Sunday, April 5, 2020


Normally, the publicity Sun Valley has been seeing would tickle the hearts of those at Visit Sun Valley and The Chamber of Hailey and the Wood River Valley.

But not when it’s zeroing in on Sun Valley for having the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the country.

Following stories in the New York Times and other publications, at least a couple more came out Friday, focusing on Blaine County--the size of Delaware--as the epicenter of COVID-19 in rural America.

Jason Albert noted in “Faster Skier” that Sun Valley became an obvious escape valve for second home owners and others trying to flee the pandemic in hot spots like Seattle.

“We also all know now this was a perfect storm for coronavirus transmission,” he wrote. “With one post office and a single grocery store, packed slopes and trails, the possibility for community spread was rife.” 

Albert’s main point of contact was fellow skier Betsy Youngman who noted that a place like Sun Valley or a region like Blaine County would not exist without the wealth that comes and goes and second homeowners who are “incredibly generous.”

“That is why we have a free summer symphony. That is why we have the ski trails and the bike trails we do,” she said. “Generally, it is a very welcoming and grateful community that people come here and spend their money so that those of us that live here year-round can live in such a beautiful spot with beautiful amenities. This is different because what was happening, that has now been shut down, some refugees that are coming from the bigger cities have come in sick.”

Youngman noted that there’s more tension than normal as locals eyeball out-of-state license plates at the grocery store and the trailheads because they know the owners of those cars could be sick. But she said that the community has also bonded as it looks after its elders.

“We are willing to be compassionate. We had a neighbor come in from Chicago who was here three days and came down with the COVID-19. The other neighbors said, ‘How can we help? Can we get you some groceries?’ So, we went to the grocery store. We dropped some things off on his front porch.”

To see the article, visit

The other article that has been making rounds since Friday is one in The New Yorker written by former Wood River Valley resident Michael Ames. Ames recently published a book on Bowe Bergdahl titled “American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan.”

Ames noted that at least twice President Trump invoked Idaho as wide open, capable, impervious to a health-care crisis.

But even as Trump was praising the elbow room in Idaho, which he placed in the Midwest, members of the National Brotherhood of Skiers were returning home from their 47th annual Summit in Sun Valley with the virus circulating in their blood.

Upwards of 126 came down with symptoms within a week, Ames wrote. Twenty tested positive and eight were hospitalized—three in intensive care units.

Even DJ Jazzy Jeff, who had spun records for a packed party at Whiskey Jacques was suffering from pneumonia and associated coronavirus symptoms.  And, in the days since, two Brotherhood members, who shared a room in Sun Valley, died.

“As in Italy, the situation is exacerbated in the aging resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley, where the average ages of residents are 46 and 60, respectively, and where, on one recent April Fools’ day, a group of pranksters stationed walkers on the curbsides of the town’s main intersections,” Ames wrote.

Ames notes that NBS President Henri Rivers became livid after the Idaho Mountain Express alleged that the National Brotherhood of Skiers could have been the source of the outbreak.

“They implied that we tried to harm the town,” he said, noting that the 700 skiers spent more than a million dollars during their week in Sun Valley.

The Summit took place Feb. 27 through March 7 while the President was still classifying the virus as a hoax.

In response to the finger pointing, Sun Valley Mayor Peter Hendricks and Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw crafted a statement with NBS Representative Reggie Allen that said there was no evidence as to when and how the virus first entered Sun Valley or Ketchum. The resort area had numerous visiting guests and organizations between and during the same time the NBS members were visiting, the statement added.

“Our main concern now is that everyone who has been affected in the NBS and other groups and in all of Blaine County recovers in better health,” the statement concluded.

“If we’re going to point the finger at anyone, point it at me for not closing this town down earlier,” Bradshaw told Ames.

Bradshaw concurs with those who have been tracking the disease in the valley that it likely was carried into the valley a couple weeks before the Summit by someone from Seattle.

Bradshaw’s theory duplicates numerous anecdotes, including one recently retired Fire Chief Bart Lassman told Ames of riding the gondola with a man who had just arrived the day before from Seattle.

As the gondola climbed the man took a phone call from his office in Seattle.

“Shut everything down. Send everybody home. We’re closing down shop,” he told the person on the other end of the phone after learning one of his employees had shown up that day with COVID-19 symptoms.

Then, Ames wrote, he hung up the phone and asked how the snow was.

To read the story,



  • Idaho’s confirmed cases on Saturday climbed to 1,080 from 1,015 on Friday. Blaine County’s went up by five to 410.
  • Mountain Home’s mayor said on Facebook Saturday that he will shut the city down if people do not stay home. Going out to buy a lottery ticket is not considered essential, he said.
  • Brian Stokes Mitchell, who is scheduled to perform at the Sun Valley Music Festival’s gala, has announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus. Happily, he believes that he is over the hump.
  • Walmart is not only limiting the number of customers in the store to 20 percent of its capacity but it’s putting down markers to create a one-way flow to help customers avoid coming in close contact with others.
  • A Couple in India have named their twins Corona and Covid. The girl and boy were born during India’s ongoing 21-day lockdown.
  • Americans may soon be able to learn if they’ve ever been infected with COVID-19 by pricking their finger and submitted a scanned image of their blood test via a smartphone to doctors. All from the safety of home. A Los Angeles digital healthcare company called Scanwell Health is developing the test, which determines if the blood contains antibodies for coronavirus. Antibodies could inactivate future viral infections.

    What the test can’t do is say whether you’re currently sick or contagious. And, if you test too soon, you could get a negative result as most individuals become positive for antibodies 14 days after the onset of symptoms.

  • A new study out of China suggests that cats and ferrets may be susceptible to COVID-19 and they may be able to infect one another, although they show no signs of illness. At least, if researchers squirt the virus down the cats’ noses in high concentration, which is a completely unrealistic scenario. Experts say house cats or feral cats would never be exposed to the level of virus that researchers subjected them to.

    But no need to panic. There’s no evidence cats can get sick from the novel coronavirus and they don’t appear to be able to pass it to humans. Dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks on the other hand are not susceptible, according to CNN.

  • The Grand Canyon National Park is now officially closed after a concessionaire employee tested positive. Zion National park, however, remains open.


~  Today's Topics ~

Sun Valley Woman Solves the Problem So Many Hand Sanitizers Pose

Enthusiast Touts SBG’s Value in a Pandemic as Garden Blooms with Flowers and Activities

Why Have Blaine County Hispanics Fared Better During Pandemic?











Advertising /Marketing /Public Relations
Inquiries Contact:

Leisa Hollister
Director of Marketing & Public Relations
(208) 450-9993
Got a story? Contact:
Karen Bossick
Editor in Chief
(208) 578-2111
The largest online daily news media service in the Wood River Valley. We are the community leader, publishing 7 days a week. Our publication features current news articles, feature stories, local sports articles/video content articles and the Eye On Sun Valley show 6 days a week on COX Channel 13. See our Kiosks around town throughout the Wood River Valley!
P: 208.720.8212
P.O. Box 1453 Ketchum, ID  83340

© Copyright 2019 Eye on Sun Valley