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Boise State Football And Treefort Forge Ahead As Hospitals Are Overloaded

John Kelly
Boise State Photo Services

Some of Boise's biggest events are moving ahead despite crisis standards of care being activated statewide this week.

Boise State University will still host Saturday’s football game against Oklahoma State.

Albertsons Stadium can hold more than 36,000 people, making it Idaho’s 10th largest city when it’s at capacity.

Wide sections of the crowd at Boise State’s first home game weren’t wearing masks, despite a school policy mandating them inside the stadium.

Dr. Steven Nemerson, Chief Clinical Officer for Saint Alphonsus, was asked this week whether these types of events were safe.

“The short answer is no, it’s not safe to have those events, but we don’t know that we can change the trajectory,” Nemerson said.

His advice for people who still want to go to the game Saturday?

“The best thing would be if people are going to attend those events that they cover their faces and stay separate, but we’ve seen that that doesn’t happen,” he said.

University spokesperson Mike Sharp said the school has no plans to cancel the game at this time.

President Marlene Tromp told Boise State Public Radio she was disappointed with people not complying with the mask mandate, but “we have to learn to live with the illness.”

Late Friday afternoon, Tromp, along with the CEOs of Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke's health systems, issued a letter to the campus community, saying Boise State would require all students attending Saturday's game to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.

"The university understands that the game is fast-approaching and that this requirement will present some challenges...," Tromp said.

Those requirements will be in effect for all fans beginning Oct. 2.

"This window provides the time for both our healthcare system and our fans to respond to this requirement and permits people to make the choices that are the best for them and their families."

St. Luke’s projects every bed they have will be used by a COVID patient by the end of the month.

Organizers for Treefort Music Fest, which is set to start next Wednesday, issued a statement saying they’ve stopped ticket sales and reiterated their COVID policy requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or negative test results. They’re also requiring attendees wear masks as required under a new city policy.

“Events that are ready and willing to take these extra steps remain important to the broader well-being of our community and not only can happen, but should happen,” they said.

The most recent Treefort in 2019 attracted about 24,000 people to Boise, according to organizers.

Emma Arnold, the former organizer of Comedyfort, Treefort’s comedy offshoot, blasted the organization’s choice to move forward with the festival at this time.

“As someone who previously worked closely with them, it’s baffling and infuriating to watch them attempt to spin what is clear selfishness into something community-based,” Arnold wrote on Twitter.

“I’ve held my tongue [because] I kept assuming they’d eventually do the right thing and cancel…” calling the decision “unhinged and irresponsible.”

A Treefort spokesperson said they've reached out to Arnold privately and declined to comment further.

Eric Gilbert, a founding member of Treefort Music Fest, defended the move in a Facebook post Friday morning.

Gilbert said he's been battling prostate cancer for most of this year and "currently winning." Healthcare workers he's spoken with during his treatment, he said, blame those who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine for the overwhelming surge of cases and hospitalizations.

As of Thursday, 42% of all hospitalized patients at St. Luke's were COVID-positive. Of the 75 patients in the ICU, 63 were battling COVID-19 and 96% of them were unvaccinated.

Gilbert pointed to the festival's vaccination and testing policy as a way to mitigate any additional pressure on Treasure Valley hospitals, which he described as going "well beyond what any outside agency has asked of us."

"A bunch of vaccinated, responsible, community-minded people staying home next week won’t help the current issue with ICU beds in the state of Idaho. In fact, it could do more harm," he wrote.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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