The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 961 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide today, raising the total to 62,746. Of those, an estimated 32,936 are active.
According to state health officials, coronavirus has contributed to the deaths of 615 Idahoans, 16 more than yesterday.
Based on the state's numbers, Blaine County gained 13 new confirmed and one probable case overnight, leaving totals at 853 confirmed and 44 probable. As of last night, the South Central Public Health District was monitoring 119 active cases in the the county.
Blaine County updated its regional COVID-19 transmission risk assessment today, once again reflecting a "critical" risk, based on a 10 percent positive testing rate and seven-day average of 34.1 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. Today's risk assessment update was based on data from Oct. 18-24.
Read on for details of COVID-19 testing procedures at St. Luke’s, Blaine County’s economic situation, impending elections and more top news from Thursday, Oct. 29.
• St. Luke’s Health System has issued a statement asking people not to use emergency departments for the sole purpose of COVID-19 testing without having a severe illness. The emergency room is for medical emergencies only, but various St. Luke’s hospitals have reported patients visiting for testing with mild or no symptoms at all. Patients who believe they may have been exposed to the virus can use St. Luke’s online self-triage tool and make an appointment to receive a test.
• The Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum has suspended its Enrichment Camp until Nov. 9 after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The camp provides childcare for families on the days their children are not in school, meaning students who attend school on Tuesday and Thursday attend the camp on Monday and Wednesday. The staff member in question worked on Monday, Oct. 26, and families have been notified.
• Our annual Economic Almanac hit the newsstands this week. In it, our reporters examine in detail the still-unfolding economic impact of COVID-19 on Blaine County, how the virus has contributed to a dwindling middle class and widening financial gap, the tourism outlook moving forward and more.
• With Bellevue Marshal William Ross Scaggs on administrative leave following his arrest for felony delivery of marijuana, the Bellevue City Council voted to appoint Deputy Mynde Heil to fill the role in the interim. Mayor Ned Burns said he has “full confidence” in her ability to lead the department through the “difficult time” to come, as Idaho State Police continue to investigate Scaggs.
• Gimlet residents have taken matters into their own hands after a bull elk was shot by two different bowhunters—first near the highway and then in a residential backyard—in late September. Though technically not illegal, the incidents' close proximity to private homes has prompted a powerful backlash. The Gimlet Masters Association has posted "no trespassing" signs in the area and have courted the county commissioners to enact change, describing hunting in residential areas as “dangerous” and “ethically ridiculous.”
• Tuesday is election day. Blaine County residents will have the opportunity to vote in several local, state and national elections.
Gretel Kauffman discusses all the candidates and races here. See tomorrow’s paper for details on how and where to vote.
For more local and regional news, look for a copy of tomorrow’s Idaho Mountain Express, or visit mtexpress.com at any time.