Monday, June 1, 2020
Some Valley Residents Say, ‘Whoa!’ As State Takes Off Emergency Brake
Muffy Ritz has created coronavirus art with a ball and a bunch of thumb tacks.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020


Idaho and Blaine County may be taking off the emergency brake when it comes to addressing the  coronavirus. But Fran Jewell is not about to rush back in as stores begin reopening their doors.

She’s planning to continue to self-isolate and will likely do so until the nation comes out of the second wave of infection that health officials have predicted may take place next fall.

“I had a heart attack two years ago, I have diabetes, and I have lung issues. So, the prospects of going out in the community and risking getting this disease absolutely scares me,” she said. “I think we’re being arrogant in thinking we can move ahead right now without testing and treatments. I think we need to move much more slowly.”

Paul Ries’ Curve shows one more reported case of coronavirus in Blaine County, which now has 498 total Idaho gained 27 new cases on Monday for 2.106 total.Two more deaths were reported in Ada County, bringing the statewide toll to 66.

Jewell is among a host of Wood River Valley residents who are a little fearful of the nationwide rush to reopen, expressed by protestors waving signs that say things like “Give me liberty or give me death.”

She has spent the past six weeks revamping her dog training business so she can do it remotely, using her dogs in demonstrations rather than going to people’s homes. She’s walking her dogs on a friend’s private estate, rather than take them in areas where she might encounter others. She’s having Atkinsons’ deliver her groceries. And she’s installing a mail box at her home, as she hasn’t picked up her mail in six weeks.

“I don’t understand the people across the nation that are protesting that we need to reopen everything right now,” she added. “That’s a level of selfishness beyond what I would expect.”

Jewell is not the only one who believes that denial is not the way to beat the virus.

Ketchum resident Charlie Webster has resisted going to the post office for the past six weeks. And he only went to the store for the first time in a month this past week. When he did, he went at 7 a.m. wearing a face mask and goggles.

“I was very scary looking,” he said. “But I think we’re a little crazy to rush to open back up because we don’t have a clue what’s going on. The only thing we do know is that you don’t want this thing.”

Webster conceded that most people probably have a good understanding of what they need to do to avoid getting the virus now. But how many people will take the necessary precautions is the question, he added.

“If you knew there’s a one-in-six chance you were going to be caught in an avalanche, I don’t think anyone would ski that run. Yet people seem to be willing to go into enclosed species where they know people who are infected have been,” he said.

Imagine how we would behave if shopping at Costco gave us a chance of contracting cancer within a week, said Michael Bernardi.

Steve Powers notes that the Sun Valley area has more reason to be cautious than other areas because its median age is 55 versus 45 for Ketchum and 35 for Hailey,

“Just last year my good friend Lynn Bockemohle said, ‘There is no need to build a retirement community in Sun Valley because Sun Valley is a retirement community,’ “ he recounted. “It was funny when he said that last year. But it’s a serious thing to consider now that we know the coronavirus is toughest on people over 60 years of age.”

Peggy Streigel, who fits the over-60 category, said she is definitely opposed to reopening most anything, particularly after Sun Valley getting a reputation has one of the hot spots for the virus.

“I sing with the Caritas Chorale, which has a majority of singers over 65, and I said no to a personal meeting this past week,” she said. “We eventually did it with Zoom. I just feel lucky we have Atkinsons delivering groceries free to older people.”

Renata Beguin, who also fits the over-60 category, is puzzled that states, including Idaho, are opening up when none have met the 14-day downward trend that White House guidelines call for.

She began wearing a face mask in public to keep from catching a cold before it became fashion du jour after receiving a kidney transplant seven months ago.

Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, she has been isolating at home save for two- to four-mile walks each day with her dogs. Her husband Fred wears gloves and a face mask when he picks up her transplant medicine at the pharmacy.

“I have no right to judge people who want to go back to work if that’s what they want to do. I live safe in my house, and my boys are safe in San Francisco,” she said. “But I tell all my friends over 70 that we’re so vulnerable until there is a medical solution. And I just hope people are careful so they won’t become a burden on our hospital workers again, causing our doctors and nurses to get sick.”

Andrea Lieberman said she is conflicted about reopening and reemerging into society.

“I’m not a scientist, but my instinct is that right at this moment when we’re getting antsy and frustrated is exactly the moment we need to be cautious and double down,” she said. “It’s the second wave that  can be so devastating.”

Those who look at reopening through the prism of having spent weeks combatting the virus are resisting a rush to reopen.

“I’m a little hesitant about going into a coffee shop or hardware store right now because I think there’s a lot of people out there who are contagious, even though they may not be exhibiting symptoms, said Muffy Ritz, who still has not regained her sense of taste and smell after getting sick in mid-March. “And they don’t know yet whether those of us who have recovered from the virus have antibodies that might protect us.”

Mary Finnerty and her 21-year-old son Colin both had the virus. Colin spent six days in the hospital fighting bilateral pneumonia, excruciating pain, lungs filling with blood and liver complications related to the virus.

And, while Mary dealt with the virus at home, it was one of the hardest health issues she has dealt with.

She is angry about the “lackadaisical” actions she sees in public as people become further removed from that day in mid-March when much of the valley life came to a screeching halt in order to slow the spread of the virus.

“I see blatant disregard more than ever before--from the post office to Albertsons, and I shake my head knowing what we went through as a family. I even saw a patient who needed emergent care and she walked in without a mask and gloves and then explained to us that she had been exposed,” she said.

“I know we can make a difference in containing this. But we need to follow through with what we need to do.”


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