The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare counted 473 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide today, raising the total to 22,707. Health officials consider the virus a contributing factor in 217 deaths statewide, seven more than yesterday. Of the grand total, 8,207 have recovered and officials are monitoring 14,283 active cases.
The health department confirmed two more cases among Blaine County residents today, leaving the total at 558, of which about a dozen are considered active.
The coronavirus has dealt a blow to Idaho's sheep industry and continues to press heavily on local government budget discussions. Here are those and other top stories from Wednesday, Aug. 5.
• The price of lamb has hit a ten-year low, and industry professionals say COVID-19, the trade war with China and restrictions on work visas have all contributed to the decline. Fifth-generation sheep rancher Corey Peavey of the Flat Top Sheep Co. near Carey offered the Express many insights into recent challenges and a difficult future facing the industry, especially in Idaho.
"The price of lamb is 90 cents per pound now," Peavey said. "We need $1.50 to make a profit.”
Our Tony Evans spoke with Peavey and several other sheep specialists. Read the whole story here.
• The Idaho Supreme Court extended an emergency order to further delay jury trials until at least mid-September. Criminal jury trials cannot occur before Sept. 14 and civil jury trials are delayed until December at the earliest. If trials do go ahead at these dates, Idahoans aged 65 and older can withdraw from jury duty, as that age bracket is considered more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19.
• In a marathon five-hour meeting on Monday that covered a wide range of topics, the Ketchum City Council opted to postpone voting on the preliminary fiscal year 2021 budget until next week. The current economic outlook is far from positive, with the city estimating a $1.1 million dip in revenue based on a predicted 34 percent decrease in local option taxes receipts, permits and construction fees.
The budget features many cuts, including a 100 percent decrease in funding to Visit Sun Valley. Representatives from Visit Sun Valley spoke before the council, arguing that pulling funding from marketing would inevitably result in a decline in tourism and ultimately damage the local economy further.
• Kelly Green resigned from the Blaine County School District Board of Trustees last night, citing the “bullying culture” of the board as her reason for stepping down. With Green’s departure, the school board now consists entirely of members who were either elected in November or appointed since then. In an interview with the Express, Green described a “hostile environment” among board members.
Gretel Kauffman has the story here. She updated the piece Wednesday afternoon with information from Green's resignation letter, and a response from Board Chairman Keith Roark.
• The November elections are looming, and Republicans in District 26 are calling for party unity to make the currently blue district turn red. Candidates spoke at a GOP town hall event in Fairfield on Saturday, addressing such hot topics as COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, defunding the police, protests in Portland, reopening schools, gun rights, immigration, abortion, gay marriage, public lands access and more.
For more top local and regional news, pick up a copy of today’s Idaho Mountain Express or visit mtexpress.com at any time.