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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Small Town Idaho Officials Are Having To Learn How To Deal With COVID-19

Tom Michael
Boise State Public Radio

The coronavirus pandemic has changed life across the state, from large cities to small towns, including the Custer County town of Stanley.

Stanley is a gateway to recreation areas like Redfish Lake and the Sawtooth mountains. It’s slack season here, but with travel restrictions because of COVID-19, these aren’t normal spring days for the small-town mayor, Steve Botti.

“There are many conference calls everyday with the governor’s office,” said Botti, “his task force, people and officials in Ketchum. We’re coordinating closely with Blaine County, with Custer County officials, the county commissioners, the Eastern District Public Health service. Everyone is trying their best to coordinate.”


He knows neighboring Blaine County is a hot spot, with several health care workers among those infected.


“We have a small clinic here in town,” he explained, “which is normally staffed by one physician's assistant.”


The Stanley facility relies on the clinic in Challis and the hospital in Ketchum, both 60 miles away; both would struggle to deal with overflow patients — the Ketchum hospital has been diverting patients to Boise.


“Yes, that makes it more difficult for us,” he said, “because we have such minimal facilities here, that our little clinic could easily be overwhelmed.”


Credit Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio
Stanley Town Square, July 2017.

“I don't think anyone has seen anything like this, certainly not up here, in Idaho,” he continued. “Probably not even in the United States. Not since 1918. Not anything of this magnitude. I think everyone is learning and figuring this out and doing the best they can to figure out what the proper response is and then actually trying to implement that.”

Custer County has one confirmed coronavirus case. Now only essential businesses are open for the 50 residents of Stanley. “Merc, the grocery store in town, and the gas station are open,” listed Botti. “All the restaurants are take-out only in town, and they went to that voluntarily before they were ordered to do so”


Everything else is closed, he said, “all the other businesses that are listed as non-essential.” He paused, “Obviously the health clinic remains open.”  Locally, he relies on the physician’s assistant. “She’s been a great resource,” he said.


Although he presides over a small town, Botti is left with a big task, similar to other municipal leaders across the country. He studies health advice, “all the way up through the state, all the way up to national. I try to gather information from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re all helpful. By synthesizing all of that, we're trying to frame the best possible message.”


“Everyone is trying their best to coordinate, to share information,” he concluded, “to try to work through this together.”


Find Tom Michael on Twitter @tom2michael

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