Is Idaho County becoming a haven from virus?

Dan Anduiza, of Riggins, reacts to the mess a group of campers made in one of the more popular local fishing holes along the Salmon River in Riggins over the past weekend. Anduiza noted that he and his fishing buddies attempted to go to the spot last weekend but there were a number of trucks and pop-up campers with Ada County license plates and they were unable to fish on that section of the river. He said when they came back Monday, there were cigarette butts, used toilet paper, make-shift fire pit, along with a variety of other trash strewn about the small area just down the road from the Shorts Bar Recreation Area.

GRANGEVILLE — As Idaho County remains one of the few places with no confirmed cases of COVID-19 and an open courthouse, officials here are beginning to see what may become a migration of folks from other areas seeking refuge.

Undersheriff Jim Gorges told a gathering of about 16 people at the Idaho County Commission meeting Tuesday that he interviewed three couples who were camped last weekend at Shorts Bar along the Salmon River east of Riggins. One couple, he said, was from Blaine County, another from Ada County and the third from Nez Perce County.

They were here, Gorges said, to get away from the spread of the virus in other parts of the state. The couple from Blaine County — where the highest number of coronavirus patients in the state is located — 40 as of Tuesday — had been quarantined at their home for two weeks. They planned to stay in Idaho County for a couple of weeks, return home and then likely come back to the Riggins area.

“We’re going to continue to see that, I’m sure,” Commission Chairman Skip Brandt said.

Brandt said he visited with a couple on Sunday from Walla Walla who had flown to Kooskia for lunch. There are three restaurants in Kooskia, and all remain open.

Idaho County Assessor James Zehner said his office has seen increased foot traffic in the past week from people applying for motor vehicle registrations and the circuit breaker program. Zehner said only the courthouses at Idaho, Clearwater, Adams and Owyhee counties remain open to the public.

Brandt asked the elected county officials if they foresee that becoming a problem in the near future. Although the commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday regarding courthouse operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, that resolution does not shut down any county offices, other than the driver’s license office, which was closed by the sheriff last week.

As long as the out-of-county requests remain at one or two a day, Zehner said, he sees no reason to alter operating procedures now.

“If that goes to a dozen a day we could (have a problem),” he said.

The county courthouse operations resolution states the commissioners will continue to monitor the local threat from the virus and directs the public to follow federal guidelines regarding interactions and personal hygiene.

The resolution provides some relief to county workers if they have to stay home to take care of children out of school or for other reasons. It also urges people to “continue to support our local businesses if possible by taking advantage of their optional services” such as drive-through, pickup or delivery options.

In other COVID-19 business:

Sheriff Doug Giddings said a 61-year-old Kooskia woman who died Monday was tested for the virus.

“We were concerned because of her young age,” Giddings said, but the test was negative.

He said it’s possible the coroner will order an autopsy.

Abner King, CEO of Syringa General Hospital, said two short-term ventilators are available at the hospital, but there is no capacity for long-term ventilator patients. Hospitals in the region are communicating about how patients who require longer-term care will be moved, he said.

Kim Johnson of St. Mary’s Hospital at Cottonwood said a triage tent has been set up outside the hospital to test for coronavirus. A similar tent has also been erected at Clearwater Valley Hospital in Orofino. So far, there have been no positive tests for COVID-19 at either hospital, Johnson said.

Seasons Restaurant on Main Street appears to be continuing a robust business and has blocked off two parking spaces for people who are picking up food orders. But a sign on the Blue Fox Theater marquee next door tells a different story: “Temporarily closed til things get better.”

Hedberg may be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or (208) 983-2326.

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