Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Blaine County Remains in Critical Red Zone while Boise Moves to Cite COVID Flouters
Buffy McDonald sits behind one of the many Plexiglass screens The Community Library has installed to protect its librarians.
Friday, November 20, 2020



Blaine County is continuing to head in the wrong direction when it comes to fighting COVID. But Boise’s mayor says police in her city will begin enforcing mask orders to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Blaine County’s average new cases per 100,000 residents climbed even higher during the week of Nov. 8-14 with 53.4 new cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average. It was 49.6 from Nov. 8-14 and 33.5 the previous week.

Blaine County added 16 new coronavirus cases on Thursday for a total of 1,166.

Anything above 25 cases per 100,000 people warrants stay-at-home orders, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute, which puts Blaine County in the critical red zone on its risk assessment scale.

The positivity rate—the percentage of tests coming back positive--is 11.18 percent.  Anything above 5 percent means there’s a good chance of contracting the virus out in the community.

Health officials are attributing many of the cases to in-home gatherings where people aren’t wearing masks or distancing. In addition, people who have been exposed to someone with the virus or have tested positive are not quarantining when they should.

Alturas Elementary School retreated to online learning this past week after a large number of staff members had to quarantine.  The school hopes to resume its mix of online and in-person learning on Monday, Nov. 30, following the Thanksgiving Holidays.

Idaho recorded 1,543 new cases on Thursday for 87,978 total cases. Twenty-three more Idahoans lost their lives to the virus adding to a 835 death count.

The district had nine staff and 14 students with active cases this week. It had 156 students and 18 staff in quarantine. That compares with 23 staff in quarantine and three with active COVID cases the week before, along with 141 students in quarantine and 19 with active COVID.

Alturas Elementary has four staff with COVID; Wood River High School, 2, and Carey School 1. Wood River High School has six students with COVID; Hailey, Silver Creek and Wood River Middle, two each, and Carey and Hemingway STEAM School, one each.

It’s not alone. The Boise School District announced this week that it will move its 25,000 students back to online learning after Thanksgiving. Nearly 1,600 students and staff are quarantined. And schools in Nampa, Caldwell and other communities are also doing an about-face.

Boise State University, meanwhile, can barely field a football team between players out for COVID and injuries.  Fourteen players were out for COVID during last week’s game, and one player had to play both offense and defense.

And quarterback Hank Bachmeier confirmed that COVID forced him to miss two games, including a marquee shot at Brigham Young University.

Those between the ages of 30 and 39 led the way in Blaine County’s new cases during the week of Nov. 8-14 with 23 cases. Close behind were fifteen 18-29-year-olds and fourteen 40-49-year-olds. There were 16 between the ages of 50 and 69, five among those 70 and older and sixteen between the ages of five and 17. One child age 4 or under was confirmed to have COVID.

The impact on the hospital capacity at St. Luke’s Wood River is considered moderate, but officials are concerned about full hospitals in Twin Falls and Boise where they might need to send patients for care.


Boise Mayor Lauren McLean got tough on Thursday after hearing hospital officials warn that they could be forced to start rationing care due to the increasing number of COVID patients filling their hospitals.

The mayor announced she has instructed police to ticket or arrest those who refuse to wear masks and refuse to leave local businesses when asked. And residents can file complaints about businesses not following public health orders, triggering inspections by the city.

Businesses found to be in violation could have their license suspended 10 days for the first violation, 20 for the second and a year for the third.

Boise’s new health order on Thursday not only mandates face coverings. It also limits access to the Boise Airport to passengers with tickets and people waiting in vehicles at passenger drop-off and pickup spaces. It also closes City Hall, Boise libraries, the Boise Depot and Fort Boise Community Center, in addition to other city facilities and some businesses. Idaho Ice World, the Boise Senior Center and Boise Municipal Pools will be closed through summer 2021.

Central District Health notes that Ada County is getting as many cases in a single day as they should be getting in a week.

“COVID is getting the better of us,” said Kim Link, program manager for the health district.


A motion to approve a mask mandate for eight counties, including Blaine County, in South Central Public Health District’s region failed 5 to 4 Thursday afternoon.

Board members from Blaine, Camas, Minidoka and the medical consultant voted to pass the mandate. Board members from Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln and Twin Falls counties voted against it.

The board received more than 2,500 comments, with “for” and “against” comments from the Wood River Valley. The majority of the comments were against the mandate.

The debate over masks in Idaho is heating up. After one person read the comments of anti-mask people, he wrote, “Hey St. Luke’s take note of these people’s names and refuse them treatment.”

St. Luke’s respiratory therapist Rachel Thain, who spoke a week ago as the governor rolled Idaho back to Stage 2, noted that she wears her masks to take care of others and that others should wear masks to take care of her. “When I see people not wearing their masks, it’s like a sign of disrespect to me,” she said.


Idaho has the second highest positivity rate in the nation behind Montana, according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Idaho also ranked sixth in new COVID-19 cases in October per 100,000 people--right behind Utah

The task force has recommended that Gov. Little institute a statewide mask mandate.

North Dakota has the highest COVID-19 mortality rate of any place in the world, according to the Federation of American Scientists. And its neighbor—South Dakota—is third worst. Both states also have the lowest rates of face mask use in the nation.

About 400 Idahoans are currently in the hospital battling COVID-19. Beds and equipment are in short supply; so are staff. St. Luke’s hospitals fielded a record 135 COVID patients this week—with nearly 200 staff out sick—133 with confirmed COVID.

South Central Public Health District estimates that 97 percent of those with COVID are able to deal with the virus at home but that 3 percent need hospitalization.

“Looking at Utah’s numbers they are at almost 5 percent hospitalization,” said Twin Falls Councilman Chris Reid, according to KMVT. “If we are at that rate, 9,806 people will need to be hospitalized to stay on the 99 percent survival rate side.”

The State of Idaho Medical Advisory Committee has drawn up a plan in which points are assigned to patients based on age, underlying health problems and the patient’s likelihood of surviving. Those who don’t have a likelihood of surviving compared to someone else will be allocated to “comfortable care”—that is to make them comfortable, Dr. Kenneth Krell with Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center told KTVB this week

If two patients have equal need of immediate care, tiebreakers—i.e., lotteries--come into play.


Both Pfizer and Moderna have announced that their vaccine candidates are about 95 percent effective and that they could seek permission for emergency use in the United States today. If it’s a go, health care workers could begin receiving vaccines within a month.

There are four vaccines in last-stage testing in the United States and 11 around the world.

Neither Moderna nor Pfizer-BioNTech are made with the coronavirus. Both contain genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus and respond.

One of the scientists behind the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine says that, if everything continues to go well with the vaccine and we get a high vaccination rate by next fall, we could have a normal winter next year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed his sentiment, telling those at the think tank Chatham House that the coronavirus pandemic’s days are numbered, thanks to vaccines.

Fauci likened it to the calvary coming, saying the average American could have access to a COVID vaccine by April 2021.

“But don’t stop shooting. Don’t put your weapons down,” he said, touting the continued need to wear masks and distance. “You better keep fighting because (the calvary) is not here yet.”


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