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Sun Valley area holds town hall on COVID: How the resort area is unique and what it plans

Tamarack Resort Q4 2020
Future in Focus: Sun Valley

Blaine County held a virtual town hall meeting Thursday night to go over the area’s COVID-19 status.  

Similar to most counties in Idaho, Blaine County’s positive case numbers are growing. It is averaging 32.9 cases, per 100,000 residents. 

[Data shows shifts in Ketchum economy this year in wake of pandemic]

Dashboard 

Blaine created a COVID-19 risk level assessment and dashboard that is somewhat unique to the county. The assessment tells the community if Blaine’s risk is green (minimal), yellow (moderate), orange (high) or red (severe). It looks at case numbers per 100,000 on a seven-day average.

The tool looks at positive rate, hospital capacity, testing time and several other factors. 

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Commissioner Angenie McCleary says that they created the unique plan to continue to be proactive and because of Blaine’s different situation. 

“We have a somewhat different population than the other counties in our district,” she said. “We have a lot of visitors, we have a lot of second homeowners we have commuters. And so we need to make sure that we do everything we can to keep our community healthy and safe.”

Two differences on the Blaine County’s dashboard, compared to Central District Health, is it is updated weekly rather than biweekly. It also requires fewer cases to move into different risk levels. 

Resurgence

Dr. Terrence O’Connor, St. Luke’s Wood River emergency medicine physician, says that this summer if the risk assessment existed Blaine would have been in the yellow, the moderate area. Now, the dashboard indicates that Blaine County falls under the red level. 

“If I was able to test everybody who was just starting to get sick at the end of February into early March, one week before we actually had stay at home orders… we had about 47 cases over a seven day period of time,” he said. “We’ve had 53 over seven day period of time in our last analysis. That should be concerning.”

Blaine County School District 

This fall Blaine County School District had four staff members and 16 students test positive. Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes says it is common to have 50 to 100 students and staff members out quarantining because they were exposed to COVID-19. 

“I will let you know that we have three cases that we feel like transmission occurred in the school,” she said. “So we are not immune from this. But so far, we have kept it fairly low.”

Schools closed for a couple of weeks in the spring, then resumed online. Holmes reports that the high school students are about back to where they left off in the curriculum. However, she says the elementary students are behind and now the staff is concentrating on instructing literacy and mathematics.

Rapid tests 

Blaine County received “quite a few” antigen rapid tests. The tests are for school staff, students, the uninsured population, and frontline providers. 

“We are going to work with the local hospital as well to distribute some of those test kits,” Melody Bowyer, director of South Central Public Health District said. “So yes, those we’ll be widely available. We should have plenty test kits for the schools. The antigen tests are for symptomatic testing. So it’s only for people that are showing up with symptoms.”

Looking forward

Once a COVID-19 hot spot, Blaine County does not want to get back to that point.

City officials emphasized the importance of wearing masks, following social distancing rules and other COVID-19 guidelines.

“We all want to enjoy the fall, and winter and support each other,” Commissioner Jacob Greenberg said. “So let’s take care of ourselves and each other. We suppressed it before and we can do it again. Stay safe and reach out. If you need help we’re here to support you. Just let us know what you need.”

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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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