Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Blaine County to Hold Virtual Town Hall to Address Rise in COVID Cases
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Wood River Valley leaders are trying to slow the spread of coronavirus in the valley with a return to mask wearing and social distancing.
   
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

COVID GRAPHS BY PAUL RIES

A COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall meeting to address an alarming rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Blaine County has been scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15.

The webinar town hall will be held at 6 p.m. at www.blainecounty.org (scroll down to learn more details).

 
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Blaine County recorded just nine new cases on Monday after a few days of double digit increases.
 

Blaine County entered the red “critical” category on Monday following high daily numbers of new cases several days in a row, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute. The Institute provides key metrics to help leaders figure out how to suppress the coronavirus.

Blaine County is experiencing a level of increase not seen since March.   The county had 614 cases on Sept. 15. Now just a month later it has 771 cases and it has recorded 52 new cases since Friday.

All the surrounding counties are in red. And Idaho has the sixth highest rate of daily cases per 100,000 population in the nation. It recorded 597 new cases on Monday for a total of 48,663. At least 510 Idahoans have lost their lives due to COVID.

Hailey has seen the largest surge in recent cases followed by Bellevue. Sun Valley and Ketchum have recorded fewer cases.

 
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Blaine County pulled ahead of Twin Falls County this past week.
 

“It’s not dire just yet, but it did move the City of Hailey to start limiting the number of people at gatherings,” said Blaine County commission Jacob Greenberg. “We can’t pinpoint any one thing. I think it’s a little bit of everything--it’s anywhere and everywhere. We need to remind people: Remember what you did in March and April: wearing masks, social distancing, practicing hygiene so we can quell the trend and keep the economy going.”

Hospitalizations, including COVID and non-COVID patients have hit record highs at St. Luke’s Magic Valley in Twin Falls. And Eastern Idaho hospitals are also stretched to the brink.

The surge may limit or inhibit St. Luke’s Wood River’s ability to transfer patients needing a higher level of care, noted members of the Adaptive Planning Committee for COVID-19 in Blaine County on Monday. Hospital staff at regional hospitals are out sick or unable to transfer to other hospitals due to the high number of patients restricting staffing availability.

St. Luke’s Wood River had four COVID inpatients on Monday, according to Joy Prudek, public relations manager for St. Luke’s Wood River. St. Luke’s Magic Valley, conversely has more than 40 COVID inpatients.

Due to the high number of COVID patients there, they have less ability to send staff to help with St. Luke’s Wood River, she added.

“We closely watch staffing and other resources and that will be key in any decision making regarding the status of elective surgeries and procedures,” she said. “We are okay as of now and hope we do not have to go down that path as it leads to health issues down the road.”

The positive rate for testing in Blaine County is currently 5.91 percent, according to Idaho Health and Welfare. Communities need to be under 5 percent. The average new cases per 100,000 residents based on a seven-day average is 20.61.

Most of the new cases are being reported among those between 18 and 39 years of age.

Greenberg said he is asking contractors to make sure that workers coming from outside the county stay home if they’re feeling sick. He’s also asking them to recommit to wearing masks and maintaining safe distances from one another.

“The surge in cases seems to be across the board,” he said. “It’s not just young people but, certainly, with the football team quarantined that’s reason to be concerned.”

Blaine County’s Adaptive Planning Committee is encouraging residents to do the following:

  • Make your social group exclusive, as contact tracing shows many are getting COVID from private gatherings. Keep you and your children’s “pod” small and remember that whoever they socialize with impacts you and your family.
  • Remember: As it gets colder, it’s even more important to limit gathering size to fewer than 10 inside and to fewer than 50 outside.
  • Reduce your travel, especially to areas where cases are high and mask wearing compliance isn’t the best.
  • Try to plan your errands ahead of time, reducing the number of times you go to the store. Plan your shopping when fewer people will be out.
  • Mask up! The city of Hailey has lowered the age for mask wearing for children from 5 years of age to 2 and older. It will be enforcing mask wearing in businesses and groups—and that includes kids hanging out after school. Those who cannot wear a mask for some reason are being asked to wear face shields.

Face masks, which have become the symbol of the pandemic, have been shown to mitigate the severity of the infection if you do get infected, according to a study of medRxiv. What’s more, weekly increases in per-capita mortality were four times lower in places where masks were the normal versus other areas.

Researchers say masks prevented a hundred clients of two hair stylists with COVID in Missouri from being infected with the virus. And few Black Lives Matter protesters, most of whom were masked, reported getting sick, according to a working paper of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

THURSDAY’S VIRTUAL TOWN HALL

Thursday’s Virtual Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15, will feature Dr. Terry O’Connor, St. Luke’s Wood River emergency medicine physician and medical director of Blaine County’s Ambulance District. Also, Melody Bowyer, South Central Public Health District director, and Blaine County commissioners Jacob Greenberg, Angenie McCleary and Dick Fosbury.

Ruby Garcia of St. Luke’s Center for Community Health will provide Spanish translation of the meeting.

To participate, go to www.blainecounty.org. Click on the “Blaine County Resources” green button and click on “Virtual Town Hall—Register.”

You can also register by visiting https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8066990779333563404. Enter your name and email address. You will receive an email invitation to the Virtual Town Hall that will include instructions for connecting online or by telephone.

Questions? Email them in advance to town-hall@co.blaine.id.us. Or, ask them during the event in the GoToWebinar online chat feature.

 

 

 

 

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