Ketchum And COVID: Heartbreak, Success And Everything In Between
It was just about a year ago — in early March 2020 — that Idaho reported its first lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. Soon enough, many were calling the Wood River Valley Idaho's first "hot spot" of the pandemic in the Gem State.Blaine County quickly responded with some of Idaho's first safety protocols that would ultimately become familiar in every other corner of Idaho.
As the one-year anniversary approaches, City of Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about his community's current status, his city's economic resilience and his hopes for the coming months.
“What's really most important is the kindness that we've seen in our community and the attention to other people's situation more than our own. And I do appreciate everyone for doing that."
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. It was just about this time a year ago that we first got word that Idaho's first significant outbreak of COVID-19 had hit the Wood River Valley. Between then and now, there has been some heartbreak, some success, and in between… challenge after challenge. So, we're going to check in with Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw this morning to see how things are. Mayor Bradshaw, good morning to.
NEIL BRADSHAW: Good morning, George. Good to talk to you again.
PRENTICE: I am looking at the City of Ketchum's website this morning: there’s a big red box. It says “risk level critical.” What is happening in Ketchum right now?
BRADSHAW: Well, we have seen an uptick in cases since New Year's Eve. And while the rest of the country and the rest of the state have declined, we saw an increase, although in the last couple of weeks, that also is improving as well. So, it almost seems like we are running countercyclical to the rest of the state. And that could be because of the tourism contributing to that. I'm not quite sure… this is all just speculative facts. There's no data to support one or the other. But overall, the outlook, I think, is pretty positive. We have now turned the corner on our sort of third wave, as it were.
PRENTICE: For the record, you've got a face mask mandate still in effect.
BRADSHAW: Yeah, obviously, we don't have the data to support one or the other, but what I will say is that the community has really responded to this pandemic and being very thoughtful, very kind. And, you know, we see use of the masks throughout town and throughout the businesses, and hopefully that's making an effect and improving the health outlook for our community. But what's really most important is the kindness that we've seen in our community and the attention to other people's situation more than our own. And I and I do appreciate everyone for doing that.
PRENTICE: There's some pretty great powder on the mountain. Are you seeing a surge of visiting skiers the past couple of weeks?
BRADSHAW: Well, we certainly had a lot of people in town over President's weekend, which is great. Of course, skiing is a tremendous sport. It's outdoors. It's generally not skiing within six feet of each other. And so it's a relatively safe. And we haven't really seen any known incidents of coming from that mountain. Of course, as I said to you before, you know, Ketchum and Sun Valley is the perfect antidote to this virus. We have plentiful sunshine and open space. And so that's brought a lot of tourism. And our economy is actually done relatively well considering the pandemic is going on.
PRENTICE: Indeed, your community is very dependent on summer visitors. What is your level of optimism for the coming months?
BRADSHAW: Well, summer… I would be very optimistic. We actually saw very few cases throughout the summer last year, that was because we weren't having the number of gatherings, a number of events that we typically have. But I think the fact that people will be spreading out again, less indoor activities, plus the introduction of the vaccination will all help and build consumer confidence and confidence for the tourists to get out there. And we would expect to see a busy summer if the positive trend on covered continues.
PRENTICE: Well, the number one topic of conversation in Idaho and across the country is the vaccine. But how are things going there?
BRADSHAW: It's rolling out. It's encouraging to the community. Is it rolling out fast enough? And we can always want it to be faster and give people the opportunity to make a decision on the vaccination. But as every week goes by, we're seeing improvement on that front, too. So, again, I would expect that that to accelerate over the coming months.
PRENTICE: We have not paused often enough to thank our caregivers. And I want to give you the opportunity to talk a little bit about the folks over at St. Luke's in your community.
BRADSHAW: Well, they've no doubt have done stellar work. They've really put themselves out in the front line in every way possible to support our community. I, I know everyone feels very, very grateful for what they they've done and other people around the community to frontline work at the grocery store, front line workers and teachers and in so many ways have been willing to put themselves out there to keep us moving along. We do have to worry about physical health, but we also need to think about our mental health and our economic health. And those are the three that's a three legged stool that we continue to make sure we find a balance in everything we do. And so, you know, my worry actually going forward is more about the mental health now of our community and other communities around the country. Just because it's been a tough year. I want to see us come out of this stronger and more resilient and more appreciative of everything we have around us.
PRENTICE: You have so many locally owned businesses. How are they doing? How is your community’s economy?
BRADSHAW: Well, it's interesting. It's quite bifurcated in the sense that some of them are doing just better than ever, up 50 percent, up 60 percent. If they're in the outdoor business, you know, everyone is coming to ski, Nordic ski, cross-country, ski, backcountry ski, that that kind of thing. Bikes, shortage of inventory on bikes, though, and all of the stores and some of the retail stores as well have done well. The restaurants have had mixed results, depending on whether they're able to do outdoor dining or whether they've been able to do sort of a robust takeout business. Bars and gathering places have and have not done as well. I would say it's quite bifurcated and I'd like to see those businesses that have suffered and continue to do well. There's no question there's also a challenge in our economy as as best illustrated by the by the hunger coalition, the amount of work that they're doing feeding those who who need food. And they're increasing numbers by the of the numbers of people that they're feeding. And the hunger coalition is is incredible. And and it just shows, again, the challenges that has befallen this community, as with many other communities around the country.
PRENTICE: Mr. Mayor, what do you miss the most?
BRADSHAW: You know, what I have for me is really that the gatherings, the live music, the gatherings and even from a political point of view, you know, before the pandemic, it was really about holding open houses on topic X or topic line, getting us to connect to the community. I think, you know, I've always talked about a community that's vibrant, connected, sustainable and safe. And we've missed that connection and that physical connection. Well Zoom is great and we've all learned to live with in a world of Zoom, it's not the same. It's not the same as being able to to to share a room with a few other people and talk about issues that are facing our community or just live music, just wonderful live music that makes us tap auto and and Jaap or whatever it is that brings energy to our body.
PRENTICE: He is Neal Bradshaw, Mayor of the city of Ketchum. Mr. Mayor, I'm assuming better days are indeed ahead.
BRADSHAW: Absolutely. I'm very optimistic as we come out of winter and roll into summer. There's a lot to be looking forward to and hopefully everyone else feels the same.
PRENTICE: Thanks for giving us some time this morning.
BRADSHAW: Thanks, George. Thanks for your time.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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