The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported a new record high single-day increase in confirmed and probable statewide COVID-19 cases today: 1,693. The previous high was Saturday's 1,403. Today's rise brings the grand total since March to 77,121, of which health officials are monitoring an estimated 42,673.
The state has reported a total of 733 coronavirus-related deaths. Today's 19 coronavirus-related deaths are the most ever reported on a single day in the state of Idaho.
Blaine County also saw a significant jump in its COVID-19 case count today, with the state reporting 26 confirmed and three probable new cases. That leaves those totals at 973 and 63, respectively. Today's is the largest single-day increase to Blaine County's COVID-19 cases since April 3. As of last night, the South Central Public Health District was monitoring 170 cases in the county, but has not updated that data yet today.
Keep reading for details of Twin Falls’ mask debate, Idaho's efforts to get in line for a vaccine, Bellevue’s approach to health ordinance enforcement and more top news from Wednesday, Nov. 11.
• After more than four hours of public comment, the Twin Falls City Council voted 6-1 to indefinitely table an ordinance requiring face coverings in public Monday night. The decision comes as Twin Falls County COVID-19 cases surpass 5,000 total, the death toll reaches 60, hospital capacity is strained, transmission risk “critical,” and health officials monitor outbreaks in 17 local long-term care facilities.
Though several healthcare workers advocated for the mask requirement, in-person public comment was overwhelming against the ordinance, with many saying they viewed it as an infringement of personal rights and several saying the did not feel the need to wear a mask because they do not fear consider contracting the virus.
• St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls diverted some patients away from the Intensive Care Unit last night as a surge of COVID-19-positive patients brought the hospital to full capacity. The hospital is no longer diverting patients, but last night's instance comes as hospitals in Boise and Nampa are also "getting pretty full," according to a St. Luke's spokeswoman.
• As cases continue to surge across the state, the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee took the first steps toward procuring a vaccine as soon as possible, if and when one is approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. On the heels of a decision by the committee to recommend the state accept “early distribution” of a coronavirus vaccine, drug maker Pfizer on Monday announced that an analysis of its two-dose vaccine indicated it was 90 percent effective in late-stage clinical trials.
• The Bellevue City Council held an executive session on Monday, voting to formally remove Ross Scaggs from his position as Bellevue Marshal. The council’s decision follows Scaggs’ arrest in October for allegedly delivering marijuana while on duty. If convicted of that crime, he could face up to five years in prison and pay a $15,000 fine. Bellevue has not yet determined a permanent replacement for Scaggs, though Mynde Heil has been acting as Marshal in the interim.
• The Bellevue City Council is considering issuing citations for those who violate the city’s face covering requirement. The health ordinance, passed July 15, allows police officers to issue $50 penalties to those in violation, though the Bellevue Marshal’s Office has taken a more educational and less punitive approach so far, not yet issuing any citations. With COVID-19 cases on the rise and frequent instances of people not wearing masks, officials may opt for stricter enforcement. As of Monday’s council meeting, the city made no policy changes.
For more local and regional news, pick up a copy of today’s Idaho Mountain Express, or visit mtexpress.com at any time.