Sun Valley Is Under An Isolation Order, But Planes Are Still Landing

Mar 25, 2020

Last week, Gov. Brad Little (R) put one county in Idaho — Blaine, home to Sun Valley — under an isolation order through April 13. Residents are not supposed to leave their homes except to do "essential activities" like going grocery shopping, or to the bank or laundromat. Law enforcement agencies in the county say violations of the order could lead to misdemeanor charges.

Days since the lockdown was announced, the streets there are quieter, but a few times a day, planes still touch down on Friedman Memorial Airport's runway in Hailey. Most are almost empty.  

Flights between Sun Valley and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago were canceled through the end of the month. After Sun Valley Resort closed on March 16, demand for air travel dropped.

“We were seeing a significant reduction in flight loads -- both inbound and outbound flights," said Friedman Memorial Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy. Flights from Seattle, Denver and Salt Lake are still operating. 


More than a week since the resort closed, private planes have recently arrived from places like New York, Portland and Los Angeles, according to the aviation data company FlightAware. But Pomeroy said private air travel has gone way down, too. 


During a tele-town hall hosted by AARP Idaho on Tuesday, a Kuna resident asked Gov. Little why the Boise airport is still open.


"We've got critical supplies coming into the state and we have critical testing that's going out of the state, so we need air transportation," Little answered. He also said closing the aiport, as well as restricting tourists from travelling to resort towns like McCall, could amount to infringing on people's personal freedoms.  


"There's a little bit of a constitutional problem on locking borders, on locking things clear up," Little said.


At least a few of Blaine County's coronavirus cases are likely tied to visitors to the area, according to the South Central Public Health District.


Closing the airport in Hailey was considered by state officials, though, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said during the town hall. When drafting Blaine County's isolation order, the group decided to keep it open, in part, to allow the transport of medical supplies back and forth.


Pomeroy, the airport manager, added that shutting down an airport would require action from the federal government because it operates under the Federal Aviation Administration. The airport in Hailey provides essential services, he said, whether that means facilitating deliveries of food or allowing Blaine County residents to return home.


The isolation order labels "Travel to return to a place of residence from outside the jurisdiction," as "essential."


Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen


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