Baldy Smoke

It's been another hazy, smoky week as wildfires both in-state and beyond continue to burn. Air quality throughout Idaho has fluctuated considerably this week. At 4 p.m. Friday, it was at the higher end of the "Moderate" range in Ketchum, according to the Department of Environmental Quality's monitoring system. 

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 662 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide today, raising the total to 47,088. The state recorded another three coronavirus-related deaths today, leaving the Idaho death toll at 506.

Blaine County gained 12 confirmed cases since yesterday, raising the total to 695 confirmed and 36 probable. That is the largest single-day increase in Blaine County since April 8.

Keep reading for more on the coronavirus, two nearby wildfires and the upcoming elections. Here are the top news stories from Friday, Oct. 9.

• A Twin Falls County man in his 20s died from a COVID-19-related illness this week, becoming the youngest person in Idaho to die of the disease. In the wake of his death, health officials urged continued caution and adherence to safety measures.

A rise in positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths seems to trace not to a single super-spreader event, but to smaller get-togethers like backyard barbecues, dinner parties and play dates, according to the Health District.

• A car fire on state Highway 75 ignited the Wedge Butte wildfire 13 miles south of Bellevue this afternoon. Most recent estimates put the blaze at roughly 50 acres and running on the east side of the highway.

• The Wood River High School football team is in quarantine after two students tested positive for COVID-19, district officials said on Friday. 

Except those on the injured list at the time of the exposure, all players will be held out of in-person school and activities until Oct. 14, Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes told the Express. Next week's scheduled games are canceled, too, according to Wood River Athletic Director Kevin Stilling.

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• As the county braces for the flu season amid a steady rise in coronavirus infections, Hailey officials discussed their COVID-19 response plan Wednesday night. Hailey leaders took no immediate action this week, but the city council appears likely to pass a revised health order next Tuesday, tightening face mask requirements and other health guidelines.

During the week between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, 42 Hailey residents tested positive for the virus, according to County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg. 

• Friedman Memorial Airport is preparing for a high-traffic winter, anticipating upwards of 10 daily nonstop flights and improved technology for fewer diversions and cancellations. Much of that preparation will be solely focused on the health and wellbeing of passengers and staff as Blaine County’s COVID-19 transmissions risk level continues to fluctuate between “high risk” and “critical risk” on the Harvard Global Health Institute’s assessment system.

• The Meridian Fire south of Clayton has grown to 485 acres and is 7 percent contained, burning through Douglas Fir and grass in a northwesterly direction. Fifty personnel are onsite combatting the blaze.

• The Mountain Express hosted its annual Candidates’ Forum via Zoom on Wednesday, providing a free, nonpartisan medium for candidates in local and regional elections to share their platforms. For those who wish to hear directly from the candidates, the entire program is available to view on YouTube. Otherwise, our reporter Gretel Kauffman pulled out the highlights of each debate to get directly at the most important issues.

For more 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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