Coronavirus In Idaho: Resources & News From March 15-21

Mar 20, 2020

Boise State Public Radio is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. This blog contains information from March 15-21 on closures, cancellations & news regarding the coronavirus in Idaho.

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Middleton Middle School Exposed to Coronavirus

March 21, 5:30 p.m.  

The Middleton School District reported today that an Ada County resident diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus was in the Middleton Middle School on March 11 and 12. Health officials believe the individual may have been contagious during those two days. A letter published on the school district’s website said an epidemiologist from Southwest District Health will be notifying parents, staff and faculty who had close contact with the individual who tested positive. A custodial staff will be doing a deep clean of the district’s buildings and all staff members have been told to stay out of the building during spring break.   

Confirmed Corona Cases Ticks up to 41 In Idaho

March 21, 5:00 p.m.

The State of Idaho confirmed five more cases of coronavirus patients, Saturday. Ada County is reporting three more cases today bringing the county total to 11. Eastern Idaho Public Health (EIPH) is confirming two more cases of COVID-19 in that region. The total in that district is now four with two cases in Madison County and another two in Teton County. One of the new cases is a female younger than 50 in Teton County. The health district reports this case was tied to international travel. The second case news is a male under the age of 70 from Madison County. Health officials did not report how he contracted the virus. Both individuals were not hospitalized and are self-isolating at home.

Valley County Authorities: Please Don't Visit Us Right Now

March 21, 1:45 p.m.

Valley County is telling visitors to not travel to the region. There are no mandatory closures in the county, but many businesses have closed. Food service options and recreational opportunities are limited.

In an open letter to the Valley County community, Dr. Gregory Irvine, MD, chief of staff at St. Luke's McCall Medical Center, wrote in a press release that prospective visitors should stay home because of limited hospital resources in the area. "People are arriving in rural towns, in large numbers, from all over the state and country to take 'virus vacations,'' Irvine says. "I can think of little that is more inappropriate and dangerous than this mindset." On Monday, the Valley Commissioners enacted an Emergency Declaration to try to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, the mayor of McCall, the county’s biggest city, asked visitors to stay away from the tourist destination. There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Valley County.

City of Boise Closes Playgrounds

March 21 - 1:30 p.m.  

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway have ordered all city parks to close their playgrounds. The order is effective immediately. Parks and Recreation maintenance crews will be taping off areas and posting signs at the approximately 50 parks around the city this weekend. 

 

McLean said in a press release that the move was made to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Parks, trails and recreation areas remain open for now, but McLean said that could change. 

 

“If more drastic actions are required at certain park locations because residents are not practicing safe distancing or remaining off equipment, I’m prepared to recommend further action up to and including park closures”

Idaho Health District & State Websites Reporting Case Discrepancies

March 20 - 6 p.m.

The total confirmed cases in Idaho is 36, but the Idaho State Coronavirus website is still reporting only 31 cases. The current state website says Ada County only has four cases, but the Central District Health website as of 6 p.m. Friday evening was reporting eight. The state website has no reported cases from the Southeastern Idaho Public Health District, but that office confirmed the first case in Bingham County Friday afternoon in a press release.

 

Screenshot from coronavirus.idaho.gov as of 6 p.m. on March 20.

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A screenshot from Central District Health as of 6 p.m. March 20.

The Twitter handle description for the state’s main coronavirus site says it’s the “Official information regarding COVID-19, the Novel Coronavirus, from the Office of Governor Brad Little (@GovernorLittle) and the State of Idaho.” A disclaimer on the state website says state-level data will be reported at 5 p.m. every day and public health district data will be updated on agency websites at their discretion. 

Boise Parks & Recreation Urging Public To Avoid Using Park Equipment

March 20 - 5:32 p.m.

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City of Twin Falls to Consider Declaration of State Emergency

March 20 - 5:23 p.m.

On Monday morning, the Twin Falls City Manager will ask the Twin Falls City Council to consider a declaration of a State of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Twin Falls City Council will meet at the Twin Falls City Council Chambers at Twin Falls City Hall on Monday, March 23 at 10 a.m. to declare the State of Emergency.

 

“We have been working hard to ensure that we are taking the appropriate steps and the appropriate course of action at the appropriate time,” said Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler.

Southeastern Idaho County Announces First Positive COVID-19 Case

March 20 - 5:20 p.m.

The Southeastern Idaho Public Health office has confirmed Bingham County’s first case of COVID-19. The case isn’t yet noted on the state’s website, and would bring Idaho’s total to 32.

Idaho Is Now Reporting 31 Cases Of COVID-19

March 20 - 5 p.m.

The state of Idaho saw another uptick of reported COVID-19 cases Friday bringing the state total to 31. So far, the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories has tested 692 individuals and commercial labs have tested another 219. Southwest District Health is poised to announce its first coronavirus case in Canyon County. Boise State University announced today one of its employees tested positive and the Ada County Courthouse was evacuated around 1 p.m., after the spouse of a worker there tested positive. The South Central Public Health District, which includes Blaine and Twin Falls County, remains the epicenter of the virus with 20 confirmed cases, the highest number in the state.

St. Luke's Suspends All Non-Urgent Procedures Beginning Monday

March 20 - 4:18 p.m.

St. Luke's Health System will suspend all non-urgent operations and procedures beginning Monday, March 23. According to a press release, the move "will help limit exposure risk to patients, staff and providers and will help conserve needed supplies." Some non-essential clinical visits will be moved to digital or telephone consultations.

 

 

The St. Luke’s Wood River Emergency Department will remain operational and all admissions will be transferred to an appropriate facility. Services at the St. Luke’s Wood River clinics are temporarily suspended.

McCall Asks Visitors To Stay Away

March 20 - 3:00 p.m.

The resort town has requested that visitors stay away from the area because of the limited healthcare resources. 

 

“We simply don’t have enough stores, healthcare providers, medical tools or first responders to take care of an increase in population right now,” McCall Mayor Bob Giles said in a press release. “We need to protect people’s public health and safety as a top priority in our area and for the future.” 

 

Greg Irvine, The St. Luke’s McCall Medical Center chief of staff, pointed to the neighboring resort community of Ketchum and Blaine County, as an example of what McCall was aiming to avoid. Blaine County is now at the epicenter of the state’s outbreak and issued an isolation order for the community. 

 

“We must avoid reproducing this outcome in other communities like McCall. Though our hospital is prepared to care for the citizens of Valley County and surrounding areas, an influx of people from elsewhere risks overwhelming the limited resources at our hospital. It also continues the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

 

Dr. Irvine also advised people thinking about visiting McCall and Valley County to stay away to allow the area to take care of its residents.

Kootenai County Reports Two More Cases

March 20 - 2:58 p.m.

The Panhandle Health District and Kootenai Health have confirmed two more cases of novel coronavirus in Kootenai County. The patients are two males, one over the age of 60s and the second is under the age of 30. Health officials say both have mild symptoms and are self-isolating. This brings the number of cases in the northern county to three with the first reported case being a female in her 60s with mild symptoms. A press release said epidemiologists are investigating cases of possible contact and will provide guidance to individuals who may have had contact and will monitor them for symptoms.

 

The Panhandle Health District recommends that anyone who has symptoms should not visit the health district or their medical provider. Instead, they  should call 1-877-415-5225 or their health provider to receive an over-the phone assessment to determine if testing is appropriate.

Ada County Courthouse Evacuated

March 20 - 2:30 p.m.

The Ada County Courthouse was evacuated around 1 p.m. this afternoon after the spouse of one worker there tested positive for COVID-19.

 

Elizabeth Duncan, a spokesperson for Ada County, couldn’t say when that employee’s spouse had been tested or when that employee had last been in the building. However, she said that the facility has been closed to the public this week and there were only a few dozen employees left in the building.

 

“So this was done in an abundance of caution,” she said. 

 

She said that the area is being cleaned under a “hospital-grade sanitation protocol,” which should only take a few hours. However, she said they aren’t sure yet when employees will be able to reenter the building.

 

Meridian Mayor Adopts Social Distancing Order

March 20 - 1:45 p.m.

In a press conference Friday afternoon, Meridian Mayor Robert Simison enacted a social distancing order for the city to take effect at 12 a.m. Saturday, March 21 through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, April 4. The order mandates groups or gatherings of no more than 10 individuals at a time and each member must maintain at least six feet in distance.

 

The order applies to both indoor and outdoor venues throughout Meridian, including bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms, but excludes businesses that provide critical services such as grocery stores, medical facilities or governmental agencies.

Boise State Announces First Confirmed COVID-19 Case

March 20 - 12:40 p.m.

Boise State University Friday announced a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.

 

From the announcement: "Individuals who visited the Administration Building or the Rec Center on Friday, March 13, 2020 may have come into contact with the individual who tested positive."

 

It was not immediately clear if this was an additional confirmed case to the total number of 23 reported across Idaho. Health officials have said they will only be updating data on coronavirus.idaho.gov at 5 p.m. daily.

Boise School District Offers To-Go Kids Meals

March 20 - 9:54 a.m.

The Boise School District is offering grab and go meals for children who need them next week, starting Monday. From Monday through Friday free sack meals will be available from 9-10am at the following locations:

 

  • Grace Jordan Elementary School 6411 West Fairfield Avenue Boise, ID 83709 In the front of school
  • Morley Nelson Elementary School 7701 West Northview Street Boise, ID 83704 At the student drop off loop by Community Center
  • Whitney Elementary School 1609 South Owyhee Street Boise, ID 83705 At the bus loop drop off near the Community Center entrance
  • Whittier Elementary School 301 North 29th Street Boise, ID 83702 At the bus loop entrance

 

Any child ages 1-18 (including toddlers) can receive one breakfast and one lunch per day to eat at home. No identification or proof of school enrollment is required, but the child must be present.

 

Meals will be served in a drive-through manner and meals are not to be eaten on site. If your child requires special meal accommodations, contact the Boise School District Food & Nutrition Service Office at 208-854-4067 to make arrangements.

House Republican Leadership Doesn't Recommend Blanket Self-Isolation When Members Return Home

March 19 - 8:12 p.m.

The Idaho Legislature has yet to fully adjourn, but House Republican leaders said they won’t recommend their caucus to self-quarantine when they return to their districts.

Instead, they said their members should follow guidelines set out by their local public health districts. So far, Blaine County is the only area of the state under a mandatory lockdown after 12 new cases were confirmed Thursday.

 

Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) said public health districts have “done a good job” so far in handling the situation and not creating panic across the state.

 

When asked why there shouldn’t be further restrictions in areas without large amounts of confirmed cases due to a lack of testing, Blanksma replied, “There are plenty of infectious diseases we could be testing for. How much do you want to test for? Do you want to test everyone everywhere they go? I mean, there’s a limit to what you can test for.” 

 

The Senate has adjourned for the session, but House leadership said it’s unclear when they’ll gavel out. They will reconvene Friday morning at 9 a.m.

Blaine County Isolation Order In Place, Healthcare Workers Test Positive For COVID-19

March 19 - 5:30 p.m.

Idaho Governor Brad Little has announced that there will be an isolation order in place for residents of Blaine County. That county reported 17 positive cases of COVID-19 so far, though one person isn’t from Idaho and has relocated to their home state.

Little said they are still working on that order, though, and will make sure residents have access to critical services like food and healthcare. 

“This is the first one and we want to get it right,” he said. 

Beyond that, he said two healthcare providers in Blaine County have tested positive for COVID-19 and that there is now “limited” community spread in that area.

North Idaho Has First Confirmed Covid-19 Case

March 19 - 3:14 p.m.

North Idaho has now confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus. The Panhandle Health District and Kootenai Health say the patient is a male older than 60 in Kootenai County. Health officials say he has mild symptoms and he has been told to isolate. This is the 12th confirmed case in the state. Officials are still investigating contacts for possible exposure.

Boise Mayor Announces Restrictions For Dine-In Bars And Restaurants

March 19 - 2:45 p.m.

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean announced new restrictions governing restaurants and bars in the Capital City. Beginning at midnight, all dine-in restaurant options will close for 30 days, while pick-up, drive-thru and delivery options can remain open if those businesses choose. The move comes after mounting pressure on governments to take forceful action to contain the spread of COVID-19. McLean says the city has heard from restaurants owners and employees about how to best protect themselves and the public. She says the City will allow cars to park in front of some downtown restaurants without having to pay for parking in order to allow folks to quickly and safely pick up their food.

South Central Public Health District Confirms First Case Of Community Spread

March 19 - 2:20 p.m.

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University of Idaho, Another Campus To Complete Spring Semester Online

March 19 - 1:59 p.m.

University of Idaho President Scott Green said In light of the growing concern over the spread of COVID-19, University of Idaho will deliver classes online for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. Classes will not return to face-to-face instruction.

Ketchum Mayor Issues Local Disaster Emergency Declaration

March 19 -  1:36 p.m.

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw has declared a state of emergency in the city saying a “local disaster emergency” exists in the city. The declaration will stay in effect for seven days and could be extended by the city council. Bradshaw will hold a special city council meeting next Monday and present an emergency ordinance to establish emergency powers that would allow for the mayor and council to issue orders for social distancing, isolation, quarantine and other actions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The mayor has also cancelled all future Planning and Zoning Commission meetings until of April. The city council will limit agenda items to matters that don’t need a public hearing or public comment.

Boise Mayor To Mandate Closures Thursday Afternoon

March 19 - 12:55 p.m.

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Free Meals For Children Across The State

March 19 - 11:00 a.m.

The Idaho State Department of Education announced free meals for children available at approved sites across the state. Children under 18 may pick-up meals at any site, regardless of enrollment. 

 

All five Ada County Boys and Girls Club sites are open and will be operating at extended hours of 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Beginning Thursday, March 19, prepackaged grab-and-go meals are available between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. at Riverfront Park in Garden City, Meridian Elementary Playground and Boys & Girls Club of Nampa.

NNU Extends Online Instruction

March 19 - 9:50 a.m.

Northwest Nazarene University’s transition to remote learning will be extended through the end of the Spring semester. Additionally, all university faculty and staff who are able will begin working remotely Monday, March 23. Only those employees critical to maintaining the infrastructure of university operations will continue to work on campus.

Teton County Asks Bars And Restaurants To Close Dine-In Options

March 18 - 7:59 p.m. 

After declaring a state of emergency Wednesday, Teton County, and the cities of Driggs, Tetonia and Victor are jointly asking all bars and restaurants to voluntarily close their dining rooms. Instead, they could still serve take-out customers.

"We are facing an unprecedented threat to our community in the COVID-19 pandemic,"  county and city officials wrote in a Facebook post.

"We've watched other communities around the world, and we are anxious to avoid the mistakes we've seen elsewhere."

They also encouraged residents to take seriously social distancing guidelines of avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.

 

Idaho Unemployment Offices Close Temporarily

March 18 - 7:08 p.m.

The Idaho Department of Labor is shutting its doors to the public until April 3 to limit the exposure if its employees and residents to coronavirus.

Department Director Jani Revier stressed that people would still be able to file for unemployment online or over the phone.

"We are still open for business and available to serve our customers,” said Revier. “These closures simply allow us to do our part to help slow the transmission of COVID -19.”

To file an unemployment insurance claim online, visit labor.idaho.gov/ClaimantPortal or call (208) 332-8942 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Job seekers can still register for work, look for work, research careers and learn about on-the-job training opportunities such as apprenticeships and Idaho Job Corps online. Businesses can also post job listings, pay unemployment insurance taxes and report new hires during the closure.

 

Boise Reinstates Off-leash Dog Policy As Outdoor Alternative During Outbreak

March 18 - 6:52 p.m.

With the cancellation of spring city rec leagues, Boise Parks and Recreation is reinstating it's off-leash policy for pups at Ann Morrison Park and Optimist Youth Sports Complex through the end of April.

"During a time of uncertainty and stress, we are glad to be able to offer another opportunity for people and their pets to get outside and reap the benefits of fresh air and exercise," said Doug Holloway, director of Boise Parks and Rec.

Boise Greenbelt paths, parking lots, roads and playgrounds are off-limits. Officials are encouraging dog owners to move away from Dog Island, if possible, to let the turf recover from what was a wet winter.

The city says to continue practicing social distancing while at the park and to follow proper hygiene.

Also, pick up after your pets.

Twin Falls County Reports First Case While Blaine County Adds One More, Bringing Idaho's Total To 11

March 18 - 6:15 p.m. 

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has confirmed two new cases of coronavirus, bringing the state's total to 11. Click here for more information on each case so far identified in Idaho. 

Both of the new cases are in south central Idaho, which is home to nearly half of the state's cases.

One is a man in his 80s from Twin Falls County, the first case in that county. He was briefly hospitalized, but is now recovering at home. The second is a man in his 40s from Blaine County. He displayed mild symptoms, health officials said, and is also recovering at home.

The South Central Public Health District said the four other women in Blaine County who contracted the disease are still recovering well. Officials believe three of them received it from visitors to the area, while the origin of the fourth is under investigation. 

St. Alphonsus Opens Drive-Thru Testing In Meridian, Clamps Down On Visitors

March 18 - 5:25 p.m. 

St. Alphonsus Health System will now be offering daily, drive-up screening for COVID-19 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at it’s Meridian location at 3025 West Cherry Lane.

Extra locations are under consideration in Boise, Nampa and Fruitland.

The healthcare system is also launching a triage phone line at (208) 302-2683 that will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as well.

All visitors — excluding those going to pediatrics, the maternity ward, neonatal ICU, the ICU, certified medical interpreters and end-of-life care areas of the hospital — are now suspended.

Individual visitors must also be older than 18, and those who have a fever or respiratory illness symptoms will be turned away. Only one visitor per patient will be allowed at one time.

The hospital has also postponed all elective and non-emergency surgeries until further notice, under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Idaho Secretary Of State Limits In-Person Services

March 18 - 4:51 p.m. 

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said both the elections and corporate divisions will only provide in-person services by appointment only through April 6, at least.

While the doors to the office will close and signs with contact information will be posted, the office will still functionally be open with staff continuing to answer both phone and email inquiries from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

The move comes amid a push to encourage voters to request an absentee ballot for the upcoming May 19 Primary.

Canyon County Adds To Its Closures

March 18 - 3:40 p.m.

Canyon County announced new closures on Wednesday and asked that all non-essential visits to the courthouse, administration building, and DMV facility be postponed until further notice. Persons with essential business are encouraged to address those online or by telephone.

College of Southern Idaho Cancels 2020 Commencement

March 18 - 3:38 p.m.

 

The College of Southern Idaho will not hold May commencement ceremonies this year, in alignment with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s guidance for mass gatherings, which recommends the cancellation of events with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. The scheduled  commencement date, May 8, falls within the eight-week window.

 

Earned degrees and certificates will still be awarded when the semester has concluded, and diplomas will be mailed to students about six to eight weeks after the end of the term, the college said.

 

Animal Shelters React To COVID-19

March 18 - 3:40 p.m.

Idaho Humane Society in Boise remains open, but with stipulations. Its adoption center is open by appointment only. West Valley Humane Society in Canyon County is also open. Mountain Humane in Hailey is closed to the public, but the ability to foster pets continues — only with an appointment.

Idaho Democrats Call For All Absentee Ballot Primary Election

March 18 - 3:12 p.m.

To help curb the spread of the coronavirus, Idaho Democrats are calling on state officials to solely issue absentee ballots during the upcoming May 19 primary election.

 

The Idaho Secretary of State's office has already launched a campaign to encourage residents to request an absentee ballot and are looking at ways to make it easier to get one online.

 

"Under the current and projected conditions involving COVID-19, it does not seem viable for Idaho to hold enfranchising and meaningful elections in May if those elections are held in-person at regular polling places. Many of Idaho’s poll workers are older adults who have been advised by the CDC to remain at home in order to avoid exposure to COVID-19," said Van Beechler, chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.

Opera Idaho Cancels Events Through April

March 18 - 2:55 p.m.

After postponing its annual gala earlier this week, Opera Idaho cancelled a slew of activities through March and April. Their stage production of Dead Man Walking has been pushed into the 2021-22 season. They are also closing their office doors through March.

 

Director Mark Junkert wrote in a statement that music is “a critical part of our collective healing,” and offered patrons online links to nightly video streams of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Traffic Backing Up At St. Luke's Meridian Drive-Up Testing And Screening Tents

March 18 - 2:32 p.m.

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Coronavirus Layoffs Spark Surge In State Jobless Claims

March 18 - 2:00 p.m.

Jobless claims are surging across the U.S. after governmental officials ordered millions of workers, students and shoppers to stay at home as a precaution against spreading the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Full story here.

Reclaim Idaho Suspends Signature Gathering

March 18 - 1:30 p.m.

Organizers with a ballot initiative seeking to raise $170 million for K-12 public schools in Idaho has suspended their signature gathering operations in light of COVID-19. The group Reclaim Idaho is behind the effort; the same group successfully passed Medicaid expansion in 2018. The group sought to increase taxes for higher income earners to fund education.

 

According to a press release, organizer Luke Mayville said “[the very nature of the ballot initiative process requires one-on-one contact with thousands of voters, which is contrary to the advice and guidance being given by scientists and health officials all over the country. We have no desire to put our volunteers or Idaho citizens at risk of contracting Covid-19.”

 

The initiative gathered more than 30,000 signatures in 20 legislative districts. In order to qualify to be on the November ballot, they needed to attain 55,057 valid signatures by April 30.

 

Idaho Recommending Stricter Social Distancing Guidelines To Stem Coronavirus

March 18 - 1:02 p.m.

Idaho officials are discouraging gatherings of more than 10 people and telling them not to dine-in at bars and restaurants, one day after the federal government issued these guidelines. Full story here.

Boise City Council President Under Quarantine After Contact With Confirmed COVID-19 Case At Conference

March 18 - 10:10 a.m.

Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg released a statement today announcing she is self-isolated at home after learning of a confirmed case of coronavirus at the National League of Cities annual Congressional Cities Conference she attended earlier this month.

Clegg’s statement said she did attend a committee meeting on March 8 with the infected person in a group of 75 people. As soon as she was notified of the possibility for exposure, Clegg has not interacted with anyone outside of her household and is following recommendations from the CDC to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“I have contacted my primary care physician and was advised by them to stay home and let them know if any symptoms arise,” Clegg said in her statement. “I will continue to help lead the cities response to the coronavirus and any other work virtually.”

She has not experienced any symptoms to date and plans to stay isolated until March 24.

 

Blaine County School District Will Screen Students Before Going Back To School

March 18 - 9:00 a.m.

Blaine County Schools are closed for one week before and one week after the scheduled spring break, and are scheduled to reopen on April 6. The district said it does not have authority to interfere with students’ spring break plans, but that it does have the authority to screen returning students to make sure those who are infected, or suspected to be infected, with coronavirus do not come to school. The screening process has not yet been determined, the district said. The district also said students and parents should be prepared for extended closure.

Idaho Hunger Relief Organizations Adapt To Meet Increased Demand During Coronavirus

March 18 - 7:19 a.m.

As the coronavirus keeps people away from school, work and wages, food pantries are seeing a bigger demand while trying to adapt to social distancing protocols. Full story here.

 

The Urgency Of Meals On Wheels In The Shadow Of COVID-19

March 18 - 7:04 a.m.

The spread of COVID-19 has revealed the vulnerability of Idaho's most susceptible population: seniors. Coronavirus is particularly harsh when it targets older adults, prompting most seniors to shelter in place. Sadly, it's the same demographic in need of healthy nourishment. Full story here.

Teton County Asks Bars And Restaurants To Close Dine-In Options

March 18 - 7:59 p.m. 

After declaring a state of emergency Wednesday, Teton County, and the cities of Driggs, Tetonia and Victor are jointly asking all bars and restaurants to voluntarily close their dining rooms. Instead, they could still serve take-out customers.

"We are facing an unprecedented threat to our community in the COVID-19 pandemic,"  county and city officials wrote in a Facebook post.

"We've watched other communities around the world, and we are anxious to avoid the mistakes we've seen elsewhere."

They also encouraged residents to take seriously social distancing guidelines of avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.

 

Idaho Unemployment Offices Close Temporarily

March 18 - 7:08 p.m.

The Idaho Department of Labor is shutting its doors to the public until April 3 to limit the exposure if its employees and residents to coronavirus.

Department Director Jani Revier stressed that people would still be able to file for unemployment online or over the phone.

"We are still open for business and available to serve our customers,” said Revier. “These closures simply allow us to do our part to help slow the transmission of COVID -19.”

To file an unemployment insurance claim online, visit labor.idaho.gov/ClaimantPortal or call (208) 332-8942 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Job seekers can still register for work, look for work, research careers and learn about on-the-job training opportunities such as apprenticeships and Idaho Job Corps online. Businesses can also post job listings, pay unemployment insurance taxes and report new hires during the closure.

 

Boise Reinstates Off-leash Dog Policy As Outdoor Alternative During Outbreak

March 18 - 6:52 p.m.

With the cancellation of spring city rec leagues, Boise Parks and Recreation is reinstating it's off-leash policy for pups at Ann Morrison Park and Optimist Youth Sports Complex through the end of April.

"During a time of uncertainty and stress, we are glad to be able to offer another opportunity for people and their pets to get outside and reap the benefits of fresh air and exercise," said Doug Holloway, director of Boise Parks and Rec.

Boise Greenbelt paths, parking lots, roads and playgrounds are off-limits. Officials are encouraging dog owners to move away from Dog Island, if possible, to let the turf recover from what was a wet winter.

The city says to continue practicing social distancing while at the park and to follow proper hygiene.

Also, pick up after your pets.

Twin Falls County Reports First Case While Blaine County Adds One More, Bringing Idaho's Total To 11

March 18 - 6:15 p.m. 

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has confirmed two new cases of coronavirus, bringing the state's total to 11. Click here for more information on each case so far identified in Idaho. 

Both of the new cases are in south central Idaho, which is home to nearly half of the state's cases.

One is a man in his 80s from Twin Falls County, the first case in that county. He was briefly hospitalized, but is now recovering at home. The second is a man in his 40s from Blaine County. He displayed mild symptoms, health officials said, and is also recovering at home.

The South Central Public Health District said the four other women in Blaine County who contracted the disease are still recovering well. Officials believe three of them received it from visitors to the area, while the origin of the fourth is under investigation. 

St. Alphonsus Opens Drive-Thru Testing In Meridian, Clamps Down On Visitors

March 18 - 5:25 p.m. 

St. Alphonsus Health System will now be offering daily, drive-up screening for COVID-19 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at it’s Meridian location at 3025 West Cherry Lane.

Extra locations are under consideration in Boise, Nampa and Fruitland.

The healthcare system is also launching a triage phone line at (208) 302-2683 that will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as well.

All visitors — excluding those going to pediatrics, the maternity ward, neonatal ICU, the ICU, certified medical interpreters and end-of-life care areas of the hospital — are now suspended.

Individual visitors must also be older than 18, and those who have a fever or respiratory illness symptoms will be turned away. Only one visitor per patient will be allowed at one time.

The hospital has also postponed all elective and non-emergency surgeries until further notice, under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Idaho Secretary Of State Limits In-Person Services

March 18 - 4:51 p.m. 

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said both the elections and corporate divisions will only provide in-person services by appointment only through April 6, at least.

While the doors to the office will close and signs with contact information will be posted, the office will still functionally be open with staff continuing to answer both phone and email inquiries from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

The move comes amid a push to encourage voters to request an absentee ballot for the upcoming May 19 Primary.

Canyon County Adds To Its Closures

March 18 - 3:40 p.m.

Canyon County announced new closures on Wednesday and asked that all non-essential visits to the courthouse, administration building, and DMV facility be postponed until further notice. Persons with essential business are encouraged to address those online or by telephone.

College of Southern Idaho Cancels 2020 Commencement

March 18 - 3:38 p.m.

 

The College of Southern Idaho will not hold May commencement ceremonies this year, in alignment with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s guidance for mass gatherings, which recommends the cancellation of events with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. The scheduled  commencement date, May 8, falls within the eight-week window.

 

Earned degrees and certificates will still be awarded when the semester has concluded, and diplomas will be mailed to students about six to eight weeks after the end of the term, the college said.

 

Animal Shelters React To COVID-19

March 18 - 3:40 p.m.

Idaho Humane Society in Boise remains open, but with stipulations. Its adoption center is open by appointment only. West Valley Humane Society in Canyon County is also open. Mountain Humane in Hailey is closed to the public, but the ability to foster pets continues — only with an appointment.

Idaho Democrats Call For All Absentee Ballot Primary Election

March 18 - 3:12 p.m.

To help curb the spread of the coronavirus, Idaho Democrats are calling on state officials to solely issue absentee ballots during the upcoming May 19 primary election.

 

The Idaho Secretary of State's office has already launched a campaign to encourage residents to request an absentee ballot and are looking at ways to make it easier to get one online.

 

"Under the current and projected conditions involving COVID-19, it does not seem viable for Idaho to hold enfranchising and meaningful elections in May if those elections are held in-person at regular polling places. Many of Idaho’s poll workers are older adults who have been advised by the CDC to remain at home in order to avoid exposure to COVID-19," said Van Beechler, chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.

Opera Idaho Cancels Events Through April

March 18 - 2:55 p.m.

After postponing its annual gala earlier this week, Opera Idaho cancelled a slew of activities through March and April. Their stage production of Dead Man Walking has been pushed into the 2021-22 season. They are also closing their office doors through March.

 

Director Mark Junkert wrote in a statement that music is “a critical part of our collective healing,” and offered patrons online links to nightly video streams of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Traffic Backing Up At St. Luke's Meridian Drive-Up Testing And Screening Tents

March 18 - 2:32 p.m.

Coronavirus Layoffs Spark Surge In State Jobless Claims

March 18 - 2:00 p.m.

Jobless claims are surging across the U.S. after governmental officials ordered millions of workers, students and shoppers to stay at home as a precaution against spreading the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Full story here.

Reclaim Idaho Suspends Signature Gathering

March 18 - 1:30 p.m.

Organizers with a ballot initiative seeking to raise $170 million for K-12 public schools in Idaho has suspended their signature gathering operations in light of COVID-19. The group Reclaim Idaho is behind the effort; the same group successfully passed Medicaid expansion in 2018. The group sought to increase taxes for higher income earners to fund education.

 

According to a press release, organizer Luke Mayville said “[the very nature of the ballot initiative process requires one-on-one contact with thousands of voters, which is contrary to the advice and guidance being given by scientists and health officials all over the country. We have no desire to put our volunteers or Idaho citizens at risk of contracting Covid-19.”

 

The initiative gathered more than 30,000 signatures in 20 legislative districts. In order to qualify to be on the November ballot, they needed to attain 55,057 valid signatures by April 30.

 

Idaho Recommending Stricter Social Distancing Guidelines To Stem Coronavirus

March 18 - 1:02 p.m.

Idaho officials are discouraging gatherings of more than 10 people and telling them not to dine-in at bars and restaurants, one day after the federal government issued these guidelines. Full story here.

Boise City Council President Under Quarantine After Contact With Confirmed COVID-19 Case At Conference

March 18 - 10:10 a.m.

Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg released a statement today announcing she is self-isolated at home after learning of a confirmed case of coronavirus at the National League of Cities annual Congressional Cities Conference she attended earlier this month.

Clegg’s statement said she did attend a committee meeting on March 8 with the infected person in a group of 75 people. As soon as she was notified of the possibility for exposure, Clegg has not interacted with anyone outside of her household and is following recommendations from the CDC to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“I have contacted my primary care physician and was advised by them to stay home and let them know if any symptoms arise,” Clegg said in her statement. “I will continue to help lead the cities response to the coronavirus and any other work virtually.”

She has not experienced any symptoms to date and plans to stay isolated until March 24.

 

Blaine County School District Will Screen Students Before Going Back To School

March 18 - 9:00 a.m.

Blaine County Schools are closed for one week before and one week after the scheduled spring break, and are scheduled to reopen on April 6. The district said it does not have authority to interfere with students’ spring break plans, but that it does have the authority to screen returning students to make sure those who are infected, or suspected to be infected, with coronavirus do not come to school. The screening process has not yet been determined, the district said. The district also said students and parents should be prepared for extended closure.

Idaho Hunger Relief Organizations Adapt To Meet Increased Demand During Coronavirus

March 18 - 7:19 a.m.

As the coronavirus keeps people away from school, work and wages, food pantries are seeing a bigger demand while trying to adapt to social distancing protocols. Full story here.

 

The Urgency Of Meals On Wheels In The Shadow Of COVID-19

March 18 - 7:04 a.m.

The spread of COVID-19 has revealed the vulnerability of Idaho's most susceptible population: seniors. Coronavirus is particularly harsh when it targets older adults, prompting most seniors to shelter in place. Sadly, it's the same demographic in need of healthy nourishment. Full story here.

Idaho House Republicans: Party On Amid Coronavirus

March 17 - 11:17 p.m.

Shortly after issuing a statement saying they were taking “proactive steps” to halt the spread of coronavirus, House Republicans promoted an end of the session party in downtown Boise.

Multiple Democrats have called for GOP leaders to put an end to the legislative session before the capitol building becomes a petri dish for COVID-19. Some even packed up and went home to their districts. 

 

And on Monday, a staffer resigned over fears that going to work would expose him to coronavirus, the Idaho Statesman reported.

 

But that apparently, those steps didn’t apply to a legislative tradition – an annual party thrown at the end of the session.

 

 

Fourth Confirmed Case In Blaine County, Ninth in Idaho

March 17 - 6:29 p.m.

 

South Central Public Health District announced a fourth confirmed case of COVID-19 in Blaine County. This is the state's ninth confirmed case.

 

The patient is a female  over the age of 80. She is recovering in a local hospital under isolation. The point of transmission remains under investigation.

Details On The Coronavirus Case In Madison County

March 17 - 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday afternoon Eastern Idaho Public Health confirmed the first positive case of novel coronavirus in Madison County. This is the state’s eighth case. The individual is a male BYU-Idaho student in his 20s with recent out-of-state travel to a COVID-19 affected area.

 

The individual is recovering with mild symptoms in his Rexburg apartment. The patient became symptomatic on March 8, returned to Madison County on March 11 and stayed in his apartment until seeing his medical provider on March 12.

Caller Blasts Idaho Gov. Brad Little's Response To Coronavirus During Town Hall

March 17 - 5:42 p.m. 

Gov. Brad Little (R) faced doubts about the way his administration has handled the extra time Idaho has had to prepare for the coronavirus during a tele-town hall Tuesday.

 

Many of the callers during the call, hosted by AARP Idaho, questioned Gov. Little on the catch-up Idaho has had to play in ramping up its ability to test for COVID-19.

 

As of Tuesday afternoon, officials had tested about 350 patients out of nearly 1.8 million people who live here. Eight cases have been confirmed in a state that was one of the last to detect the disease.

 

A man named Kent from Nampa, who said he’s a software engineer at Boise State University, accused Little of not taking the threat of coronavirus seriously.

 

“Well Kent, we are taking it seriously…” Little began to say before he was cut off.

 

“I don’t agree. I can’t even find a place to volunteer. I tried calling your office…” the man said, before the governor replied, “Do you have a question or do you want to give a speech?”

 

“I want to make a speech,” he replied. “I’m ringing the alarm here as it should be rung.”

 

Full story here.

 

Albertsons Offers Shopping Opportunities for At-Risk Patrons

March 17 - 4:59 p.m.

Albertsons announced two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays reserved for at-risk shoppers, like the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women. The hours will be from 7-9 a.m.

 

A message from Boise-based grocery chain asked that other customers help in leaving those hours for those who need them. Here's the full statement.

 

More Event Closures In Idaho

March 17 - 3:00 p.m.

The Morrison Center has suspended all events through April 15. Staff at the Boise venue, one of the state’s largest performance spaces, are working to reschedule those events. 

 

In the event that a show is rescheduled, any tickets already purchased would be valid for the rescheduled date.

 

According to a statement, Morrison Center representatives suggest donating to local arts organizations. “We are certainly going to miss our friends at Ballet Idaho and Boise Philharmonic,” it reads, “and the exceptional programs they had to make the difficult decision to cancel.”

First Confirmed Case Of Coronavirus In Madison County

March 17 - 2:53 p.m.

Eastern Idaho Public Health has confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in Madison County, bringing the statewide total at this time to eight. 

One of them is a woman from Ada County under age 50. She is recovering at home and has mild symptoms. The other is a woman in Blaine County over the age of 50. She is recovering in her home and was not hospitalized. The point of transmission is still under investigation. Another case has been confirmed in Madison County.

Map Showing COVID-19 Cases Across The Mountain West

March 17 - 2:45 p.m.

Ada County Holds Press Conference On COVID-19 Updates

March 17 - 1:59 p.m.

In a press conference held on Tuesday, Ada County officials gave updates on the COVID-19 situation DMVs, Expo Idaho and the Coroner's Office in Ada County are all closed to the public, along with many other public buildings. The landfill remains open, but has stopped taking cash.

District Director Russ Duke said the county's three confirmed cases were contracted outside the state and the district is still focused on moving people away from larger events.

County officials said they're also working with translators to reach out to refugee and Spanish-speaking communities. And they've created a task force to help vulnerable citizens like homeless people living in shelters.

Concerns Over Coronavirus Are Melting Away The Remainder Of Idaho's 2019-2020 Ski Season

March 17 - 1:50 p.m.

For many western ski areas it was a decent snow year. But the coronavirus pandemic has forced an early end to many ski resort operations in the Gem State. 

 

Boise’s iconic Bogus Basin announced it was closing Tuesday for the season. Brundage mountain near McCall also closed Tuesday, citing the crucial need for social distancing, as well as the potential influx of skiers to the McCall area triggered by other ski resort closures in the West. 

 

The smaller Pomerelle ski area near Albion in south central Idaho also shut down Tuesday because of coronavirus concerns, while Silver Mountain near Kellogg in North Idaho announced it was halting operations until at least Friday. 

 

Sun Valley, Idaho’s largest ski complex shut down earlier this week, where Blaine County now has three confirmed COVID 19 cases. 

 

Still there are current exceptions. Also in North Idaho, Schweitzer Resort near Sandpoint remains open but is taking no new reservations. The smaller Magic Mountain ski area south of Twin Falls is still open.

'How Can I Make You Care?' BuzzFeed Reporter & Idaho Native On Culture & Coronavirus

March 17 - 12:50 p.m.   

Anne Helen Petersen is a senior culture writer at BuzzFeed News, based in Montana. Petersen has been covering the culture of the coronavirus, specifically how Americans got to this point in the crisis and why so many of us are having a hard time convincing loved ones to care about this pandemic. 

Her recent articles (How Millennials Are Talking To Their Boomer Relatives About The Coronavirusi don't know how to make you care about other people) have struck a chord with folks across the country. 

She joined Idaho Matters to talk about what she’s learned reporting on this pandemic in the U.S. 

Some Of Your Coronavirus Questions, Answered

March 17 - 12:45 p.m.

If you're looking for answers to questions surrounding the coronavirus, such as, "What is it?" or  "What are the symptoms?" or "How should I prepare?" we've got a resourceful roundup post with exactly this kind of information.

Idaho Doctors Answer Your Coronavirus Questions

March 17 - 12:06 p.m. 

We've asked you to submit any questions you have about Coronavirus in Idaho, and you stepped up. With news (and mis-information) coming out every hour, it’s more important than ever that we provide the most up-to-date and accurate information. 

Idaho Matters interviewed Dr. David Pate, retired CEO of St. Luke’s Health System and a current member of Idaho’s Coronavirus Task Force; Dr. Jim Souza, chief medical officer for St. Lukes Hospital; and Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer at St. Alphonsus Hospital. We asked several of your questions to date.  

AARP Idaho Town Hall Tuesday At Noon

March 17 - 12:00 p.m.

AARP Idaho, along with Idaho Governor Brad Little, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen and Idaho State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn, are hosting a statewide telephone town hall to provide information and answer questions regarding the coronavirus in Idaho. 

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and people with underlying health conditions, like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, are about twice as likely to develop serious complications than younger, healthier people.

St. Luke's Begins Drive-Up Testing And Screening Tents

March 17 - 10:06 a.m.

St. Luke’s is beginning to open drive-up testing and screening sites on Tuesday at St. Luke’s Wood River and St. Luke’s Meridian hospitals. Patients can be tested there from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. St. Luke’s said an additional site will open in Boise on Wednesday, and more sites could open in Elmore, Fruitland and the Magic Valley.

Two New Confirmed Cases Brings Idaho's Total To Seven

March 17 - 9:52 a.m.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is announcing an additional two cases of novel coronavirus in Idaho. This brings the total to seven in the state. One of them is a woman from Ada County under age 50. She is recovering at home and has mild symptoms. The other is a woman in Blaine County over the age of 50. She is recovering in her home and was not hospitalized. The point of transmission is still under investigation.

Access To Marriage Licenses During Ada County Courthouse Closure

March 17 - 8:40 a.m.

Due to public access restrictions at the Ada County Courthouse, marriage licenses will be available at the early voting room at the county facility at 400 N. Benjamin Ln. in Boise. Both people must appear together, bring their social security number or a letter explaining why you don't have one, a state, federal or military-issued photo I.D., city and state of birth and $30 payment. Learn more.

Elections Officials Urge Voters To Get An Absentee Ballot For Idaho's Primary In May

March 17 - 6:51 a.m.

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office is urging voters to get an absentee ballot instead of voting in-person during the upcoming May primary. Registered voters have until 11 days before the primary to request an absentee ballot, but it must be received the day polls close to count.

 

Elections officials are currently exploring an online request option that would work for all 44 counties.

You can find an absentee ballot request form online here, which must be sent to your county clerk’s office for approval. It could take some time to get to you if you request one right now. Absentee ballots will be mailed 30-45 days before the election.

Mountain West Conference Halts All Organized Athletic Activities

March 16 - 9:40 p.m.

The Mountain West Conference, home to Boise State Athletics, officially suspended all organized athletic activities Monday night. The conference announced the suspension is through at least March 29, and  the decision will be revisited no later than March 22. Games, competitions and conference championships for spring sports had been canceled March 12, but there was no official moratorium on practices, meetings or recruiting until tonight, though many Universities had already limited activities on their own. Many other major NCAA athletic conferences made similar announcements last Friday.

Idaho Department of Corrections Suspends Visitations And Volunteer Services

March 16 - 7:37 p.m.

IDOC facilities are suspending visitations and volunteer services through April 1. Starting Monday, the state prison system’s phone provider CenturyLink will be providing all incarcerated members with two, free 15-minute calls per week.

Schools Announce Plans To Distribute Lunch During Closures

March 16 - 6:30 p.m.

As students begin staying at home, some school districts are announcing plans to keep children who rely on the National School Lunch Program fed. Blaine County School District will have free drop-off lunch sites set up around the county Wednesday through Friday of this week. The district emphasizes these are not opportunities to socialize. In Teton County, meals will be provided for pickup once a day at Driggs Elementary school between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Twin Falls School District will keep food pantries at schools open starting on Tuesday. 

 

Local Social Security Offices Will Close To In-Person Visits Starting Tuesday

  March 16 - 6:28 p.m.

The Social Security Administration announced it was closing office locations nationwide starting Tuesday. Services will still be available by telephone (800-772-1213) or online. The Social Security Administration has local offices in Boise, Twin Falls and Ontario, OR. Find ways to contact your local branch here.

Idaho Transportation Department Issues 90-day Extension On Expiring Credentials

March 16 - 4:48 p.m.

To reduce large gatherings of people, the Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Motor Vehicle is instituting a 90-day extension for driver’s licenses and non-commercial registration. The public is also encouraged to use the DMV’s online services rather than go to the county sheriffs’ and assessors’ offices for essential services.

Idaho Nonprofits Create COVID-19 Response Fund

 March 16 - 4:41 p.m.

The Idaho Community Foundation, United Way of Treasure Valley and Idaho Nonprofit Center created a COVID-19 response fund to provide grants to organizations that work with people disproportionately affected by the virus. These include groups that help the economically vulnerable and people who may have lost access to services. A grant-making process and selection criteria are being developed and will be announced later, once donations have begun to accumulate in the fund.

 

Gun And Ammunition Sales Rise Amid Fears Of Coronavirus

March 16 - 4:26 p.m.

In a trend growing across the country, the Sportsmen's Warehouse in Meridian says some shelves holding handgun ammunition were nearly wiped out. The store posted signs telling customers sales were limited to no more than two handguns per person each day and no more than one AR- or AK-platform rifles each day. It also placed limits on ammunition.

Boise School District & Parks And Rec Open Limited, Free Childcare

March 16 - 4:07 p.m.

The Boise School District is offering free childcare at four sites starting tomorrow through March 27. K-6 grade Boise students will get first priority. Parents will need a note from their employer showing their work schedule. Each site will have a nurse who will screen students at drop off. Breakfast, lunch and a snack will be provided. The sites are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Register using this form.

Idaho Ballot Initiatives Could Be The Next Victim Of Coronavirus

March 16 - 3:40 p.m.

Bars, restaurants and concert halls across the country are being shuttered to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. But the only way to get an initiative on the ballot in Idaho requires campaigners to come face to face with residents and ask for signatures of support – efforts that may be torpedoed as health concerns continue to rise. Reclaim Idaho, the group behind 2018's successful initiative to expand Medicaid coverage, is asking state officials to allow for online signature gathering.

Idaho National Laboratory Advises Employees To Work Remote

March 16 - 2:34 p.m.

Starting tomorrow, about 2,500 Idaho National Laboratory employees who don’t need to be at the facility are encouraged to work from home. No one at the INL has tested positive for COVID-19 yet, but INL has already increased cleaning schedules for certain high-traffic areas in buildings and is more regularly disinfecting busses. “We have now reached the next level where we need to take more aggressive steps that will help minimize the number of employees and subcontractors required inside our facilities,” INL Laboratory Director Mark Peters. Learn more.

JFAC Approves Governor's Request For Additional Resources Amind COVID-19 Pandemic

March 16 - 2:32 p.m.

The legislature’s budget-writing committee voted to set aside another $1.3 million today to make sure essential Idaho government services don’t shut down. $800,000 will purchase everything from web cameras to additional bandwidth so state employees can work remotely when necessary. The other $500,00 gives agencies money to give employees advanced sick leave and paid administrative leave. Learn more.

Idaho Democratic Party Won't Hold In-Person Delegate Selection Caucuses

March 16 - 1:35 p.m.

The Idaho Democratic Party was planning to hold a caucus to make delegate selections for the state convention, following the Democratic presidential primary of March 10. Due to the pandemic, however, the in-person event slated for each county on April 4 was cancelled. According to a press release, the party is searching for alternate ways to allow state counties to complete that electoral process.

 

“It is our responsibility to flatten the curve by staying home,” said party chair Van Beechler.

Coronavirus Postponed Treefort Music Fest. Here's What That Means For Bands & Fans

March 16 - 12:50 p.m. 

Treefort Music Fest was set to kick off next week. But last Wednesday, the festival announced it would postpone the events until September. Organizers cited concerns over coronavirus, and promised to be back in full force in the fall. Idaho Matters talks with the festival director to learn more.

 

Local Governments Announce Emergency Declarations

March 16 - 12:43 p.m.

Ada and Canyon Counties, along with Boise, Caldwell, Eagle, Garden City, Greenleaf, Kuna, Melba, Meridian, Middleton, Nampa, Notus, Star and Wilder have been making disaster emergency declarations today. The City of Parma will make their declaration this week. Officials say the move is not because of a dire situation, but so cities can work to get resources now to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

March 16 - 12:30 p.m.

Organizers announced the Gene Harris Jazz Festival, scheduled for April 2-3 in Boise, will not be held this year. Now in its 23rd season, the 2020 lineup had included Bria Skonberg, the Trent Austin Trio and The Le Bouef Brothers. Musical acts were set to perform at venues throughout downtown.

Boise Art Museum Closes Through End Of March

March 16 - 12:20 p.m.

The Boise Art Museum announced it will close its doors until the end of March. Executive Director Melanie Fales explained in a web post they were following the guidance of local health officials. 

 

"We do not have any suspected or confirmed cases connected to the Museum," she wrote. 

 

On Friday, the museum hosted an art opening for the 2020 Idaho Triennial, a juried exhibition held every three years. More than 100 people were in attendance.

 

 

How Is Coronavirus Affecting The Idaho Economy (So Far)?

March 16 - 12:06 p.m.

 

Idaho Matters considers the economic impacts Idaho is already seeing because of the spread of Coronavirus. From restaurants to hotels, grocery stores and beyond ... how are small businesses coping? 

Utility Payments Must Be Made Online Or By Mail

March 16 - 11:30 a.m.

Idaho Power is limiting public access to all its facilities as of today, which means people can no longer pay their utility bills in person. Instead, the utility is asking that people pay online or by mail as a precaution during the Covid-19 outbreak. It will also be closing its campgrounds, though it will give refunds to those who already have reservations. Learn more.

 

Ketchum Encourages Non-Essential Businesses To Close; Restaurants To Limit Service

March 16 - 10:59 a.m.

The City of Ketchum is encouraging non-essential businesses to limit operations and restaurants to go take-out only. The city is also cancelling city events and is closing public access to city facilities.

 

In a press release, Mayor Neil Bradshaw told residents to discourage friends and visitors from coming to the area. 

 

“The message is clear, this is not a place for a virus vacation,” he said.

Idaho High School Activities Association Suspends School Activities

March 16 - 10:22 a.m.

The Idaho High School Activities Association has suspended all sanctioned sports and activities — including practices — for all of its member schools through April 5. Check their website for more information regarding cancellations and postponements of other activities.

Boise State: Online-Only Instruction Part Of Greater International Effort To Battle Coronavirus

March 16 - 8:44 a.m.

Beginning Monday, March 16, Boise State has moved to online-only instruction for its nearly 30,000 students, in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Idaho's other public colleges and universities are expected to shift coursework to online-only in the coming days.

Boise State has also suspended all on-campus events to curb social distancing and has suspended all official university travel through the end of the Spring 2020 semester.

Idaho Organizers Rethink Census Outreach Amid Coronavirus

March 16 - 7:30 a.m.

Households in Idaho and across the country started getting information about how to fill out the 2020 census last week, and coronavirus concerns are making census officials and community organizers rethink how they do public outreach. Learn more.

Idaho School Official On COVID-19 Decisions: 'It's Hour-By-Hour'

March 16 - 6:44 a.m.

In the shadow of the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), much attention has focused on Idaho’s public schools.

 

Governor Brad Little said he will not implement statewide school cancellations over coronavirus, leaving it to local school districts to make their own decisions. During a March 16 conference call with some Idaho school officials, Little asked local school superintendents to consult with the latest information from health officials regarding COVID-19 when making their own district-wide decisions. Learn more.

West Ada School District Amends Earlier Decision, Will Close Starting Monday

March 15 - 9:50 p.m.

The West Ada School District has reversed its earlier decision to keep schools open and will now close Monday, March 16 and remain closed through spring break — March 27. The district's COVID-19 task force will meet to decide whether to remain closed beyond that date. If school does resume, West Ada will modify its attendance policy to accommodate students whose parents do not wish to return their kids to school for health and safety reasons surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.

Treasure Valley YMCA Announces Closures

March 15 - 8:39 p.m.

The YMCA in the Treasure Valley is closing their facilities for at least one week beginning March16-22. The closures affect the locations in downtown Boise, Meridian, Caldwell, West Boise, their Healthy Living Center and the YMCA Camp at Horsethief Reservoir. According to an email to members, although community spread of COVID-19 is not confirmed, “[c]losing facilities for one week will give us time to learn more about how to offer important programs and services to the community in the safest way possible, and adapt to meet critical needs.”

Nampa School District To Close Wednesday Through Spring Break

March 15 - 6:19 p.m.

The Nampa School District says classes will go on Monday and Tuesday in the Nampa, Caldwell, Emmett, Mountain Home and Vallivue school districts. Those schools will close down Wednesday until at least after Spring Break, which ends March 27. The West Ada School District says it will be open at least through Monday.

Boise School District To Close Through March 27

March 15 - 5:10 p.m.

Gov. Little Does Not Instruct Public Schools To Close

March 15 - 4:43 p.m.

As of right now, Idaho Gov. Brad Little is not telling public schools they have to close down. He said the decision on whether to close to slow the spread of coronavirus should be made locally. KTVB reported West Ada School District says it will be open and will have normal classes on Monday.

Coeur d'Alene and Blaine County school districts had already announced plans to close school until the first week of April.

Idaho Ed News reports Cassia County is closing down starting Tuesday through the end of March. Twin Falls is implementing a "soft closure" through March 30 — that means students can stay home, but staff needs to come in to work. Moscow schools are closing down through the first week of April, according to the Lewiston Tribune. And Kimberly is closing Monday only, reports the Twin Falls Times-News, and will open back up on Tuesday.

College Of Western Idaho Starts Spring Break Ahead Of Schedule

March 15 - 3:38 p.m.

The College of Western Idaho has announced its spring break will start Monday, March 17 — a full week before the school's regularly scheduled break — and continue through April 4 the week following. CWI staff and faculty will continue with regular schedules in order to continue the school's efforts to transition course offerings to online.

Sun Valley Resort To Close

March 15 - 1:39 p.m.

Starting on Monday, Sun Valley Resort will be closed. This includes lift operations, ski school, dining outlets, retail and rental services. Restaurants and lodging in the village will continue to operate with limited services until further notice. All winter lift tickets, lessons, or rentals that were purchased online and dated March 16, 2020, or later will be refunded automatically within 14 business days.

Idaho Education Association Calls On State To Close Schools

March 15 - 10:06 a.m.  

The Idaho Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, is calling for all schools to close for at least three weeks.

 “Recognizing that school buildings often hold more than 250 people, five days a week, we must close our schools immediately for the health of our communities, students and staff,” said Layne McInelly, President of the Idaho Education Association.

So far, Blaine County School District has closed for three weeks, as have schools in Coeur d'Alene. Boise School District officials are coordinating their response with Gov. Brad Little's office on a conference call scheduled for later today. Little's office requested BSD hold off on making any decisions until after the call, according to the district.

Boise Pride Festival Rescheduled For September

March 15 - 9:27 a.m.

Due to the growing number of attendees to the Boise Pride Festival and the public health concern over coronavirus in the community, organizers have decided to postpone the festival typically held in the month of June until the weekend of September 11.

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