Antlered Elk Snow

A mid-valley elk herd hunkered down Monday morning as a blizzard rolled in. Snowfall is supposed to continue into the night, contributing to increased avalanche danger. keep reading for more on that below.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has reported 2,228 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide so far in 2021, including 798 today. Of the total 143,305 cases, health officials continue to monitor an estimated 80,353 active cases.

Twenty-three Idahoans have died of the virus since Dec. 31, according to the state, including 11 today, bringing the state's death toll to 1,459.

Blaine County has gained nine confirmed cases and one probable in the New Year, including two confirmed and the one probable today. Today's rise leaves the local total at 1,453 confirmed and 119 probable. Based on the most recent available data, the South Central Public Health District is monitoring 160 active cases in Blaine County.

19,569 doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Idaho so far.

Keep reading for news on employees at a local long-term care facility employees out of the vaccine, avalanche danger in the region, the county’s COVID-19 risk assessment and more top news from Monday, Jan. 4.

• All but two of the 28 elderly residents at Silvercreek Assisted Living in Hailey received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on New Year’s Eve, and will be given a second “booster shot” in a few weeks. Roughly half of Silvercreek’s staff declined the vaccine, however, despite being eligible alongside their residents.

Tony Evans has that story here.

• Today’s heavy snowfall and gusty winds have prompted the Sawtooth Avalanche Center and the National Weather Service to issue a backcountry avalanche warning for the Sawtooth, Smoky, Soldier, White Cloud, Boulder and Pioneer Mountains. The agencies anticipate avalanches in the region, warning that “some will be large enough to snap trees or destroy a wood-frame house.”

Emily Jones reports.

• Blaine County dropped two risk levels on its own COVID-19 transmission risk assessment model, down to “moderate” from “critical.” Based on data from Dec. 20-26, the county registered significant drops in positive test rates and rolling seven-day average of cases. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare also noted, however, that the number of COVID-19 tests in the county were down about 35.27 percent that week.

Greg Foley has more on that here.

• The grace period for Idaho’s “Hands Free While Driving” law has now ended. The law requires motorists to only use electronics in a hands-free mode while driving, including when stopped at red lights. Violators may be subject to a $75 fine for the first offense and $150 for a second.

Read more here.

• Didn’t get enough of 2020? Take a look back at the biggest local news of the year, as chronicled in the Idaho Mountain Express’ Year in Review section. In it, we review such topics as the coronavirus, the March earthquake, the elections and more.

Click here for our retrospective.

For more local and regional news, check mtexpress.com at any time and pick up a copy of Wednesday’s Idaho Mountain Express newspaper.

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