Lake Creek Hiker

The Department of Environmental Quality lifted a health warning today. Locals could enjoy most of the day without breathing heavy clouds of smoke from California wildfires. Air quality may fluctuate with changing weather patterns, however.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare recorded another 305 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide today, bringing the total to 30,780. The state death toll rose by 11 today to 337.

Across the South Central Public Health District's eight counties, health officials recorded only 19 new confirmed cases since yesterday, 12 of which were in Twin Falls. Blaine County residents accounted for two new cases, raising the local total to 580 confirmed and 18 probable.

In other news, 5G is now available in Ketchum, schools gear up for the approaching academic year and Hailey approves a tax hike. Here are the top stories from Wednesday, Aug. 26.

• First, a quick update on the air quality: For most of today, Ketchum boasted a 40 on the Air Quality Index. That is, officially, "good," according to the Department of Environmental Quality. At 3 p.m. this afternoon, the AQI reading was updated to 55, or "moderate." That metric may fluctuate dramatically with the slightest change in weather, but for now, the DEQ has rescinded its health warning.

• Despite the efforts of the “No 5G in 5B” group, 5G is now available in Ketchum through T-Mobile. The group petitioned local governments to impose a moratorium on the technology, fearing negative health side effects. The World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and the FCC all consider 5G technology to be more or less risk-free. More to the point as far as any moratorium is concerned, Sun Valley city attorney Matthew Johnson determined that local governments have no authority to prohibit 5G altogether.

• The school year, though delayed from its original start date, is approaching quickly. Gretel Kauffman caught up with the Blaine County School District as well as private institutes Syringa Mountain School and the Sun Valley Community School for a comprehensive review of their back to school plans, including intentions to enforce social distancing and mask requirements among children and staff.

• The annual Sun Valley Professional Bull Riders Classic rodeo competition became the latest canceled event this year following a Hailey City Council meeting on Monday. Council members cited COVID-19 as they moved to deny an arena-use application from the event organizers.

The rodeo would have taken place Sept. 26.

• After prolonged debate in Monday’s meeting, the Hailey City Council voted to pass a 3 percent property tax increase for fiscal year 2021. The levy will raise property taxes by $6 per $100,000 in taxable property value, increasing that revenue stream by $81,200 for the city.

The city had the option to waive the tax increase in favor of funds from Gov. Brad Little’s $200 million property tax relief program, although city attorney Chris Simms warned that Little’s plan may not survive legal challenges, as the funds (from the federal CARES Act) are meant to be used by states in direct response to COVID-19, not to generate replacement revenue.

• The Salmon-Challis National Forest seeks public comments on efforts to revise or amend its forest management plans. The forest is currently managed under two separate plans that predate when the Salmon National Forest combined with the Challis National forest. As such, many of the plans’ core directives are out of date.

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

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