Alarms are going off about the coronavirus and local public officials must respond. They must be the first responders because to date too little help has been coming from the federal government. That means local leaders must act.

    Even though a working group has been formed to monitor the situation and discuss strategies for slowing the spread of the virus, local mayors and the Blaine County commissioners and their lawyers should step up and convene an emergency meeting that can be observed by the public through web streaming.

    The meeting should include local legislators and representatives from the South Central Public Health District, St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, Blaine County School District and major local businesses.

    The topic should be more than ways to encourage handwashing. The public has that message loud and clear. It should be what local government, the private nonprofit hospital and local organizations can do to combat what is now a rapidly spreading pandemic.

    The group should identify controls that could be put into place, and what resources and legal authority the cities and county may apply to control the spread of COVID-19.

    To state the obvious, the Sun Valley area is a destination resort with people coming here from all over the world. A woeful lack of testing nationwide means that it is wise to assume that the virus is already in the area and to act accordingly. The valley is a mere two-hour flight from Seattle, where the virus is spreading fast.

    Residents need leaders to assess best-case and worst-case scenarios, consider measures that range from mandatory quarantines to shutdowns of operations that may spread the virus and to implement plans.

    Gov. Brad Little is prodding the Legislature to approve $2 million for more testing. The Legislature should move fast on that front. The money may not go far enough, but it’s a start. There may be local resources that could be applied as well, but they must be found.

    Only more local testing will allow us to understand the extent of an infection whose carriers may not have symptoms.

    Despite weeks of delay, the federal government is only now considering covering co-pays for testing and extending economic lifelines like loans, subsidies and paid sick leave.

    Local leadership helped the valley survive the advance of three major wildfires and emerge unscathed. This new viral fire could burn the place down.

    To act as though nothing but handwashing can be done is to surrender to the viral onslaught. No one in Idaho has yet tested positive for COVID-19, but few people have been tested. Idaho is nearly surrounded by states with active cases.

    Local planning, marshaling resources, putting action on the ground and setting up a communications center would not be an overreaction. With resources and guidance, people in the valley will be willing to do what is necessary.

    Slowing down the virus is the only way to keep health facilities from becoming overwhelmed by serious cases, keep health care workers working, give researchers time to develop a vaccine and stave off economic collapse of an order that few alive today have ever experienced.

    We must act together quickly to beat the virus. Let’s get going now.

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