Masks in Town Square

Ketchum's new mask mandate was properly observed by the public in town square over the weekend. As of today, masks are required in Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, Bellevue and unincorporated Blaine County.

Idaho's statewide COVID-19 case count skyrocketed today, with 727 new confirmed and probable cases bringing the total to 12,445. That's another new record single-day increase, far surpassing the previous record of 577.

From the grand total, 3,513 cases have recovered, 110 have died, 526 were hospitalized and 151 were admitted to intensive care. State health officials are currently monitoring 8,822 active cases.

Locally, Blaine County gained another three confirmed cases among residents, leaving totals at 541 confirmed and 13 probable. Every other county in the South Central Public Health District except Lincoln and Camas also saw their numbers rise today.

Meanwhile, Bellevue joined other local governments in passing an emergency health order, health officials warn of a second wave hitting Blaine County and Idahoans seek back-to-work bonuses from the state. Here are the top news items from Wednesday, July 15.

• The Bellevue City Council held a special meeting this morning in which it passed an emergency health order requiring the use of face masks in public. Having done so, Bellevue joins Blaine County, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley in legally enforcing mask-wearing, but has a more lenient fine of $50 (as opposed to the $100 enforced elsewhere).

Following Bellevue’s decision, Carey is the only jurisdiction in Blaine County that doesn't require face masks. Carey Mayor Randall Patterson recently said he trusts each of his citizens to make that decision for themselves.

• Local healthcare officials held a town hall meeting last week and issued a stern warning about a looming second wave of COVID-19 that could soon sweep into Blaine County, citing recent spikes in infection experienced by neighboring counties.

“I’m not an alarmist, but certainly we are now at a position, currently, where we are at threat again,” said Dr. Terry O’Connor, an emergency physician at St. Luke’s and medical director of the Blaine County Ambulance District.

Officials also touched upon recent controversies surrounding how positive cases among non-residents are counted.

• Last month, Gov. Brad Little announced that Idahoans returning to work after losing employment because of COVID-19 would be eligible to receive up to $1,500 in a back-to-work bonus. Sure enough, nearly 2,000 businesses across Idaho have applied to receive those bonuses on behalf of more than 10,000 workers. That was on Monday, the first day the application window opened.

• Severe drought continue to threaten Blaine County as we advance deeper into summer. As a result, crop yields and river flows are down dramatically from the norm. On Monday, the U.S. National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the Sawtooth National Forest and surrounding area, indicating a high danger of wildfires.

Emily Jones reports in the first part of a multi-part series.

• And in the world of arts, The Spot announced its season lineup over the weekend and presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco is preparing to deliver 2020’s Hemingway Distinguished Lecture tomorrow. Click the links to learn more.

For more top news stories, pick up a copy of today's Idaho Mountain Express or visit mtexpress.com at any time.

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