Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Does Blaine County Have the Most Cases of Coronavirus Per Capita in the United States?
The Guy Coles Skate Park in Ketchum has been declared off-limits to prevent skateboarders from congregating while the valley tries to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Sunday, March 29, 2020


New York, Seattle and even New Orleans have been the focus of never-ending media attention as the number of people with coronavirus in those cities climbs into the thousands.

But on Saturday, USA Today rightly noted, that it’s not just a big city issue. The impact is just as dramatic in smaller communities.

Sun Valley, in particular.

The article based on a nationwide analysis noted that four counties—Blaine County in Idaho, Summit County in Utah and Eagle and Gunnison counties in Colorado--lead the nation in per capita rates of confirmed cases outside of New York State and Louisiana.

Of course, they all have one thing in common: They’re affluent, mountain-ringed hamlets that attract millions of visitors each year to ski, hike, mountain bike and golf. And they all have populations under 55,000.

On Friday when the article was written Blaine County had 82 cases, or 356 cases per 100,000. By Saturday afternoon the number of cases had climbed to 114.

Gulp, that’s 495 cases per 100,000.

At the same time the article was written, Staten Island had the highest rate of confirmed cases in New York City—just 174.3 per 100,000.

Summit County, with a population of 42,145, had 103 cases or 244 per 100,000.

Gunnison County, which has 17,462 people, had 57 cases (one death), or 323 cases per 100,000. And Vail’s Eagle County, with 55,127 people, had 147 cases (one death) or 267 cases per 100,000.

It’s worth noting that Summit County, home to Park City ski resort, issued Utah’s first shelter-in-place order to start Friday as officials saw its number of cases per capita were the same as New York’s. Utah’s governor issued a Stay Safe, Stay Home declaration on Saturday as the number of cases in the state rose to 602 by noon—a 122 increase from Friday.

“There’s no better place for you to be safe than in your own home,” said Gov. Gary Herbert.

Ketchum Fire Chief Bill McLaughlin, to his credit, planned for a surge back in February, stockpiling surgical masks and gowns and duct taping plastic in ambulances between drivers and patients to protect his staff.

But still, he told USA Today reporters, a handful of his 52 staffers, volunteer firefighters and paramedics have contracted the virus. That’s prompted him to send healthy first responders home with ambulances to await calls, rather than congregate in the station.

At the same time, the call volume has doubled.

More than 120,000 American have contracted the virus so far and it is still accelerating. About 2,000 have died.

“People need to take this seriously,” said Blaine County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg, who is worried his son, daughter-in-law and grandson may have the virus.  “Having people die in your community is really sad. The numbers just grew exponentially. This stuff moves in a hurry.”

The number of cases in Idaho climbed to 267 in 19 of 44 counties on Saturday. Six deaths have been reported.

In Blaine County there was a bit of bright news as doctors and other staff who have been ill or quarantined began returning to work. Four of the hospital’s seven emergency room doctors were out of commission at one point, either ill or in quarantine.

Inpatient care was suspended as resources stretched thin and the Hailey Medical Clinic closed temporarily. But the emergency department remains open, as does the lab, imaging and environmental services. C-sections can be performed and other emergencies can be tended to, said hospital spokesperson Joy Prudek.

And the walk-in clinic in the adjacent physician’s annex building and the drive-through testing are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Anyone who needs to be admitted to a hospital, whether for heart problems or COVID-19, are being transferred to other facilities by personal vehicle, ground ambulance or via helicopter or airplane, based on their condition.

In New York City and Seattle, hospital workers have started setting up hospital-at-home programs with devices that allow doctors to monitor remotely the oxygen levels and heart rates of non-coronavirus patients experiencing congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bacterial infections and pneumonia. Nurses visit daily to take care of IV drips, oxygen tanks and sensors that send vital signs to clinicians.

Unfortunately, according to an NBC News report, some recovered COVID-19 patients who spent one to two weeks in recovery isolated from human contact are now experiencing post intensive-care syndrome or post-intensive care delirium. One half-sedated man, for instance, told how he thought nurses were hooking snakes up to his arms when they were really putting IVs in.

But government officials are trying to slow the spread of disease by tracking the movements of Americans in certain areas by their cellphones. The idea: to see how they may be affecting the spread of the disease, according to the Wall Street Journal. When they found large numbers of New Yorkers congregating in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, for instance, they posted warning notices to try to impose social distancing.

Here at home Blaine County Sheriff Steve Harkins tried to dispel the idea that his deputies would be stopping drivers at checkpoints at the county’s edges as the county starts tighter restrictions forbidding all but essential travel in and out of the county.

But, he said on Facebook, “Stay at home means stay at home unless it is vital for you to leave. Each time anyone ventures out of their homes, they increase the odds of being exposed to COVID-19 and are adding to the potentially devastating stresses on our invaluable health care providers, local law enforcement, paramedics and fire departments—the life-saving first responders we all need to keep our community safe.”


The Army Corps of Engineers is in Boise to determine possible locations for makeshift hospitals.

Boise volunteers collected facemasks and other personal protective gear from dentists and veterinarians on Saturday. Here in the Wood River Valley, new and sealed supplies can be dropped off at the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, 1650 Aviation Drive in Hailey. Items should be dropped off at the door.

An Easton, Pa., company that makes Major League Baseball uniforms has switched to producing 15,000 masks and gowns a day. The single-use masks are designed for low-risk nonsurgical procedures.

Ralph Lauren also plans to manufacture 250,000 masks and 25,000 gowns and said they would donate $10 million towards the global response to coronavirus.

A pancake house in Boise has stopped flipping hotcakes and opened an online grocery, selling beans and toilet paper, as well as other bulk foods and personal care items. It’ll cost you—eight rolls of TP are $10. But other places are selling TP for even more.







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