Baldy Tree Thinning

Sawtooth National Forest crews have been hard at work throughout July on a tree thinning project on Baldy. Crews removed dead “hazard” trees along the ski runs, remove dwarf mistletoe-infected trees and thin insect-infested stands. Last year, the ongoing project took care of a dense stand in Frenchman's; this season, crews are turning their attention to areas around Limelight and Central Park. 

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare counted 457 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide today. The total now stands at 19,679, of which health officials are monitoring 13,034 active cases.

The state's death toll rose by 13 today, the largest ever single-day increase. So far, the state considers coronavirus a contributing factor in 173 deaths.

Blaine County gained one confirmed case over night, leaving the total at 552 confirmed and 15 probable cases. About a dozen are still being monitored by health officials, though test results continue to take around two weeks to turn around, a St. Luke's Wood River spokeswoman told the Express earlier this week.

All other counties in the South Central Public Health District except Camas County also confirmed new cases today. Yesterday, Twin Falls County's total confirmed case count exceeded 1,000. Only Ada, Canyon and Kootenai counties have more.

In Blaine County, the expiration of an eviction moratorium spells worry for many, especially as Congress considers returning unemployment benefits to the pre-CARES rate and Idaho's coronavirus numbers continue to climb steadily. Here are the top stories from Wednesday, July 29.

• A moratorium on evictions has expired and the CARES Act boost to unemployment benefits is set to end on Friday. For Blaine County, this means preparing for another wave of demand for rental assistance and, possibly, a great deal of evictions.

Local nonprofit groups like the Blaine County Charitable Fund are doing what they can to assist families, but the fund’s president Mary Fauth says they're preparing for a second period of crisis.

• In May, former Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in the Idaho State Penitentiary following his conviction on six felony charges of sexual abuse of a minor, his adopted daughter. His legal counsel filed an official appeal against the decision at the end of June, alleging a total of 10 points on which the Fifth District Court may have erred during the trial, including violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights.

• Heated debate continues between Bellevue and Hailey over where exactly their city boundaries lie. The main source of contention is the future of the Eccles Flying Hat Ranch—212 acres—but the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission has sided with Bellevue. Ultimately, the county commissioners will have the final word on where Hailey ends and Bellevue begins.

• One local woman has been fighting off cancer, COVID-19 and, most recently, bureaucratic red tape as the Idaho Department of Labor stalls on its delivery of more than $5,000 in unemployment payments. Though she faces eviction from her work studio on top of her continued health struggles, Alyssa Joy Claffey maintains a positive outlook on life.

For more top local and regional news, pick up a copy of today’s Idaho Mountain Express, or visit mtexpress.com at any time.

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