Ketchum Businesses Apothecary

Blaine County's COVID-19 transmission risk was declared "critical" today as infection rates rise. As the state attempts to increase vaccine rollout, a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans has become available to local businesses. Read below for more.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 612 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide today, as daily infection rates continue to decline. Today's rise brings the total to 158,200, of which health officials continue to monitor an estimated 82,277 active cases.

Though daily case counts appear to have been falling statewide, the COVID-19 death toll is spiking. According to the Department of Health and Welfare, 206 people have died of the virus since New Year's Day. The state counted another 19 coronavirus-related deaths today, raising the death toll to 1,654.

The local case surge also continued with another 17 confirmed and two probable cases reported by the state in Blaine County today, leaving local totals at 1,641 confirmed and 162 probable. Based on the most recent available data, the South Central Public Health District is monitoring an estimated 336 active cases.

To date, 13,093 Idahoans have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and a further 51,497 people have received one dose and are awaiting their second.

Blaine County’s COVID-19 transmission risk level has returned to “critical” as cases climb. See tomorrow’s paper for more information about that. Keep reading for details on proposed amendments to the state constitution, the second round of PPP loans, and more top news from Thursday, Jan. 21.

• The Blaine County School District Board of Trustees is meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. to vote on offering a contract to one of two candidates for the position of superintendent.

Click here for details.

• The Idaho House of Representatives voted today to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to call itself into special sessions without the permission of the governor. Under the current constitution, only the governor can call a special session. The amendment, which grew out of legislators' concerns over Gov. Brad Little's management of the COVID-19 pandemic, will now head to the Senate and will then require popular approval by Idaho voters.

Gretel Kauffman reports.

• The second round loans from the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program is underway, as many first round loans are being “forgiven,” effectively turning the loans into grants. Many Blaine County businesses benefited from the first round, and are now mulling over whether to take a second loan.

Tony Evans has more here.

• All four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation took to social media yesterday to comment on the inauguration of President Biden. Three of them praised the peaceful transition of power and urged the new administration to seek common ground between parties; the fourth--Rep. Russ Fulcher--took umbrage with some of Biden’s calls for unity.

Learn more here.

• Much of the 2021 legislative session has focused on COVID-19, but one measure would cement Idaho’s laws on psychoactive drugs in the state constitution, impairing future efforts to legalize marijuana and other substances.

Kauffman has the details.

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

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