Christmas Bike Wreath

Christmas decorations abound in Hailey, including this festive wreath on a bicycle. See more signs of the season--as captured by Express photographer Roland Lane--here.

Two more Blaine County residents have died of COVID-19-related illness, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The local death toll is now 12, including five this month.

The department considers coronavirus a contributing factor in the deaths of 1,301 Idahoans, 26 more than on Friday.

The state reported 2,659 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 since Friday, including 917 today. Today's rise brings the total to 130,877, of which health officials continue to monitor an estimated 78,155 active cases.

In Blaine County, the department recorded 14 confirmed and two probable cases over the weekend, raising local totals to 1,414 confirmed and 118 probable. Based on the most recent available data, the South Central Public Health District is monitoring 219 active cases in Blaine County.

Since the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Idaho last Monday, 4,348 doses have been administered.

Keep reading for St. Luke’s holiday operating hours, avalanche danger in the Sawtooths and Smokys, and more top news from Monday, Dec. 21.

• As mentioned at the top, two women--one in her 60s, the other in her 80s--have died of coronavirus-related illnesses. Both had underlying conditions, according to a spokeswoman for the South Central Public Health District. 

Click here for more details.

• St. Luke’s has adjusted its operating hours for both the Ketchum and Hailey locations for the remainder of the holiday season. Though closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, St. Luke’s will continue taking same-day appointments other days. COVID-19 testing will also be available by appointment only at the Ketchum location, except on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Greg Foley has the details here.

• The Idaho Transportation Department closed a section of state Highway 21 between Grandjean and Banner Summit Sunday, as the Sawtooth Avalanche Center issued an avalanche warning, indicating a “high” danger in the Sawtooths, Western Smoky Mountains, and around Banner Summit.

Emily Jones reports.

• The Nordic and Backcountry Skiers Alliance is calling for more roadside parking options alongside state Highway 75 between Ketchum and the Sawtooth Valley. COVID-19 has seen an influx in outdoor recreationists, while simultaneously seeing a decrease to carpooling and the use of public transportation, meaning unsafe congestion at existing parking areas.

Tony Evans has more here.

• Colorado Gulch resident Jill Bryson, who died last December, left her home and property to the Wood River Land Trust. The acquisition will add about 2.8 acres to the Colorado Gulch Preserve, and the organization hopes to convert the house into an educational facility.

Read more here.

• Christmas is just around the corner, and the telltale signs of the season are plain to see. Our photographer Roland Lane has captured much of the buildup to the holiday. See some of his photos here.

He’s also been busy documenting early season winter recreation. Click here to view his photos from Baldy, Dollar and elsewhere.

For more local and regional news, visit at any time, and keep an eye out for Wednesday’s Idaho Mountain Express.

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