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Blaine Co. leader reflects on pandemic and recovery so far in Sun Valley area

Tamarack Resort Q4 2020
Future in Focus: Sun Valley

Just days after Idaho’s Governor Brad Little declared a state of emergency, Blaine County had its first case of community spread. 

With county and mayors of the cities unable to reach a consensus on self-isolation, Commissioner Jacob Greenberg requested that Blaine County self-isolate.

“I suggested to (Idaho Health and Welfare Director) Dave Jeppesen what was his trigger point for calling self-isolation for the entire state,” Greenberg said. “If it was community spread, we were there, and he needed to do that now. They decided they would call it for us, just for Blaine County, so we self-isolated based on our request to the governor and their response saying that they supported that.”

Greenberg said there was no plan laid out prior to the pandemic, so it overtook the county.  Even so, he remained calm because of prior experience. 

Staying calm

“You either are or you aren’t (calm) in those circumstances and I think that’s kind of the nature of who I am and who we are as elected officials…for me it’s just second nature,” he said. “We’ve had to handle floods with emergency stream alteration permits, we had to handle debris flows that occurred after fires. So we’ve been through several issues already… I don’t get too out of sorts in situations like this.”

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Since Blaine County’s initial outbreak which led the state in coronavirus cases and led the nation in cases per capita, the county has been cautious. Officials made the decision to require face masks and they are urging people to follow social distancing rules. Those actions have helped Blaine County’s number go down to 11 confirmed cases. 

[“#VanLife:” Idaho business sees increase in sales for custom vans during pandemic]

Summer is the busiest season in Blaine. So ahead of tourists coming to town restaurant owners complied with the National Restaurant Association protocols. 

Other businesses also put protocols in place. They did this to ensure business owners could keep their families, employees, and customers safe when the time to reopen came.

With case numbers going down and businesses opening again, Greenberg says from what he is seeing the county is on the path to economic recovery. There is only anecdotal evidence to support this. 

Tourism increasing

As for tourism, Greenberg says people in Blaine County are doing all they can to make people feel safe. 

“Given the circumstances, some numbers I’ve seen are pretty good,” Greenberg said. “People feel confident coming here, because of the protocols and our advertising tells them what we’re doing here and they feel safe here. They know that we are hospitality-driven, we know how to do that well.”

[Sun Valley moves forward with ski area expansion project]

Officials hope to do everything they can to promote safety. 

“We just stepped it up a notch but (tourists) particularly praise the cleanliness of the organization of the properties and facilities,” he said. “Using that as a marketing tool helps people be confident that when they come here they’re going to be safe.”

He hopes the Sun Valley area will see good responses from people with all the precautionary measures and protocols taking place.

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Autum Robertson
Autum is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Ketchum, McCall and general news. Contact her at autum@boisedev.com.

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