Saturday, September 19, 2020
Idaho Remains in Stage Four, Students Flock to Rural School
Those attending the Sun Valley Music Festival finale on Wednesday wore masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Saturday, August 22, 2020


Idaho’s bout with the coronavirus is beginning to resemble a record player that keeps skipping.

Idaho again failed to meet the criteria that would have allowed the Gem State to move beyond Stage Four of its reopening plan. This was its fifth time up to bat.

This time it was the number of hospital admissions that kept the state on hold. About 14 Idahoans a day on average are being admitted to Idaho hospitals with COVID-19, with 30 admissions on Monday alone. And the state needs to have fewer than eight new hospital admissions per day of patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

Eight is being generous. Originally the metric was four admissions a day.

That said, other metrics, such as the number of overall cases, ER visits and positivity rates, seem to be moving down or stabilizing. The 14-day average for new cases was 406.6 on Thursday, down from 521.5 on July 22. But it’s way above the 14-day average of 37.1 when Idaho began Stage 4 on June 13.

The state has seen fewer than 300 cases per day just eight times since July 1. But five of those have occurred in the past 10 days.

Positivity is at 9.9 percent for Aug. 2-15—just under the 10 percent level seen as cause for alarm. But it’s double the 5 percent health officials say the state needs to be under.

Gov. Brad Little noted that Canyon, Ada, Kootenai, Bonneville and Twin Falls counties continue to be the hot spots for virus infections.

Little announced he was allocating $2.5 million in coronavirus relief funds to the Idaho Foodbank and its partners, which include Blaine County’s Hunger Coalition. More Idahoans than ever before are relying on assistance to put food on the table, he noted. And the expense of supplemental child care for days when children are not attending school in person will stretch family pocketbooks even thinner.

Thirty-nine Treasure Valley doctors have urged a return to Stage 1 in Ada and Canyon counties as they say the area’s reopening is no longer sustainable. The doctors are also pressing for a mask mandate in Canyon County, according to The Idaho Statesman.

A return to Stage One would involve closing restaurant dining rooms, gyms, bars and nightclubs and ending all public and private gatherings. Ada County has already reverted to Stage Three.


Idaho was averaging 25.4 new coronavirus cases a day when reopening began May 1. The average reached 568.9 on July 19. The surge in cases has overwhelmed outpatient COVID-19 testing sites, laboratories.

One doctor says she’s seen patients who could have avoided contracting the virus if masks had been mandated in the workplace and paid sick leave guaranteed.

All 44 Idaho counties now have reported a case of the coronavirus. Camas County added its first case since March this week.


The hamlet of Garden Valley north of Boise has delayed school by a week because so many parents have moved there to enroll their kids in Garden Valley’s school. KTVB reports that 79 new students have enrolled during the past 10 days—a 35 percent increase in students.

That has increased the number of students from 15 to 20 in a classroom to 28 to 30.

The majority are coming from Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, Meridian and Middleton where schools are starting the school year with virtual learning or a mix of online and in-person learning.


August is proving the deadliest month for the coronavirus in Idaho with the state topping 300 on Friday. Just over three people died per day from the virus during July for 100 total deaths. August has seen five deaths per day through Aug. 15, and the state now has 304 total.

Idaho had 7,800 people--464 people per 100,000 people--die from all causes between Feb. 1 and Aug. 1, 2020. The expected number of deaths for this time period was 7,600, or 451 per 100,000 people.

The number of excess deaths—200—is 43rd highest among all states. The deaths with COVID-19 is 13 per 100,000 or 44th highest among all states, according to an analysis of CDC death counts by Stacker.

The analysis acknowledges that this may be a conservative number as many deaths may have been related to COVID-19 cases which were undiagnosed.

Eight new deaths were reported on Wednesday. Four of them were in Ada County, which has now recorded 102 deaths, and two each in Shoshone and Bingham counties. The state reported seven more on Thursday and another seven on Friday.

The state gained 249 new cases on Friday for 29,369 total. Blaine County now has 593, adding three new cases in the past two days.


Masks are now required in Jefferson and Fremont counties as they move from the minimal risk level to the moderate risk level. Bonneville and Teton County, which had already been in the moderate risk level since July 16, also requires face masks. The face masks are designed to prevent a person from spreading COVID-19 to another person, as a person can be infectious up to two days before showing symptoms.


What coronavirus didn’t do, wildfire smoke did. The Twin Falls School District canceled in-person classes on Friday due to the poor air quality caused by smoke pouring in from northern California and other regional wildfires.

Those taking on-line classes continued with their classes.


AMC Theaters are set to reopen a sixth of their theaters on Aug. 20. And it’ll offer 15-cent tickets to lure theatergoers back into the theaters.

AMC Theaters reopened more than a hundred theaters on Thursday after a five-month hiatus with the promise of Russell Crowe’s “Unhinged” and the X-Men’s “The New Mutants” coming on Aug. 28 and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” on Sept. 3.

It offered tickets on Thursday at 15 cents per movie to replicate “Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices.”

We’re told Magic Lantern Cinemas in Ketchum is about to reopen, as well.


While smoke pouring in from Northern California and Eastern Oregon where the Indian Creek Fire near Juntura has now burned 27,000 acres are largely responsible for the unhealthy air conditions over the Wood River Valley, there are a few regional fires.

Among them, the Black Pine Fire, which burned about 3,000 acres six miles north of the Utah border off Interstate 84. The fire was running and torching in grass, brush and juniper.

The Muldoon Fire 20 miles southwest of Mackay has burned 374 acres and is now 85 percent contained. The cause is still unknown.

A fire near Jackpot is almost out after burning nearly 600 acres, and a 1,507-acre fire at Bliss Dam was expected to be out Friday.

But the Bear Creek Fire near Lemhi Pass 30 miles east of Salmon has grown to 8,500 acres and is just 20 percent contained.

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are now being implemented on all federal, state and private forest and rangelands, roads and trails in Blaine, Camas and Custer counties.

The restrictions are being implemented in all Sawtooth National Forest, Twin Falls District BLM and Idaho State lands north of Highway 20 to the northernmost Sawtooth National Forest boundary. They cover an area from Craters of the Moon National Monument Park Visitor Center to Hill City.

Also, the Salmon-Challis National Forest, except for the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Jim McClure Jerry Peak Wilderness.

The following acts are prohibited:

  • Building, maintaining or using a fire, campfire or stove fire, except in a permanent, concrete or metal fire ring within a designated recreation site or on private land within an owner-provided structure.
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, building or designated recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of flammable materials.

Land within a city boundary is exempted, except for the City of Ketchum, which has also implemented fire restrictions. Also exempted: personal liquid petroleum or liquid petroleum gas fuels in an area cleared of flammable material and federal, state or local officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force performing an official duty.

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