The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 498 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 today, raising the total to 26,631. Another five people have died with the coronavirus as a contributing factor, raising the death toll to 251.
The health department counted four more confirmed cases among Blaine County residents, raising the sum to 567. Every other county in the South Central Public Health District except Camas also saw their numbers rise today. That said, as of Thursday afternoon both Blaine and Camas fell into the Health District's "minimal risk" category for COVID-19 based on criteria set under its community risk assessment protocol. Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln and Twin Falls counties fell in the "moderate risk" category, while Cassia and Minidoka were labelled high risk. No counties were in the highest "critical risk" category.
Some details have emerged regarding a fatal shooting at a backcountry campsite in Custer County, fire danger is increasing, and the health district issued a warning about dangerous bacteria in two area reservoirs. Here are those and other top news stories from Thursday, Aug. 13.
• The Custer County Sheriff's Office has identified Bonners Ferry Police Chief Brian Zimmerman as the off-duty police officer involved in a fatal shooting in the Salmon-Challis National Forest on Aug. 1.
Zimmerman shot and killed 73-year-old Boise resident Russell V. Liddell that night, the Sheriff announced on Thursday. According to his press release, witnesses said Liddell confronted a group of 16-18 campers at the Tin Cup Campground in Custer County, according to the Sheriff's announcement. Following a “verbal altercation” between Liddell and campers, Zimmerman, who was among the campers, “fired rounds that struck Liddell, resulting in his death,” the statement said.
How many shots were fired and by how many people remains unclear. It is also not yet known if Liddell was armed. The investigation is ongoing, and details remain are limited.
• The U.S. Forest Service announced that the Central Idaho Dispatch Zone is now under “Very High” fire danger. The area includes the Salmon-Challis National Forest and part of the Sawtooth National Forest. Under these conditions, fires can start easily and spread very rapidly. Officials have reminded the public to use extreme caution while maintaining and extinguishing campfires. Anyone who starts a wildfire, even inadvertently, can be held legally responsible.
• The South Central Public Health District has issued a health advisory warning people to avoid Cedar Creek Reservoir and Thorn Creek Reservoir. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has identified harmful algal bloom within those bodies of water. According the health district, “These toxins can cause neurological problems, gastrointestinal distress and irritate areas of your body like your skin, eyes, and ears.”
• Ketchum resident Kathleen Phelan Britt has donated $10,000 to the City of Ketchum for the purchase of face masks for residents. Masks will be available for free from both the Ketchum City Hall and The Community Library. Since July 7, the use of masks has been legally required within city limits in most circumstances.
• The Sawtooth National Recreation Area will enact seasonal closures on certain portions of the Salmon River this weekend. The move comes in an effort to protect spawning salmon. Closures effect both boating and fishing.
For more top local and regional news, pick up a copy of tomorrow’s Idaho Mountain Express or visit mtexpress.com at any time.