Business Group in Idaho Offers Coronavirus Antibody Tests

The initiative announced earlier this month also offers active virus testing for people in the Treasure Valley whether they have symptoms or not. The group said it’s making the antibody testing available around the state.

by Jacob Scholl and Michael Deeds, The Idaho Statesman / April 17, 2020
AP

(TNS) — Crush the Curve Idaho, a local initiative started by Boise businesses that’s aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19, is now offering coronavirus antibody testing in the Treasure Valley.

The initiative, announced earlier this month, also is offering active virus testing for people in the Treasure Valley whether they have symptoms or not, according to a news release Thursday. The group said it is making the antibody testing available around the state.

The local effort will also offer on-site mobile testing units for companies so employees can be tested on their way into work.

“By opening testing to everyone, we will help Idaho return to work with a pathway going forward,” said Tommy Ahlquist, a former physician, the leader of Crush the Curve Idaho and the CEO of Ball Ventures Development, in the news release. “These baseline tests will be important as we establish who has been exposed to COVID-19. Repeat testing will be critical as we move forward. We now have the capacity to quickly test anyone and provide repeat antibody testing at recommended intervals.”

Idaho passes 1,500 cases

New cases of the coronavirus were reported in south-central Idaho on Thursday.

According to the South Central Public Health District, four more cases have been confirmed in Blaine County, bringing the county’s total cases to 467. Three new cases were confirmed in Jerome County, bumping its total to 35. Two new cases were confirmed in Twin Falls County, bringing its total to 89.

Kootenai County added one case Thursday, bringing its total to 49 confirmed cases, according to the Panhandle Health District.

Southeastern Idaho Public Health announced Thursday that a third case was confirmed in Bingham County, according to a tweet from the health department.

The newly confirmed cases brought the state total to 1,519.

Cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 32 of Idaho’s 44 counties: Ada 541, Adams 1, Bannock 5, Bingham 3, Blaine 467, Bonner 4, Bonneville 16, Camas 1, Canyon 179, Caribou 1, Cassia 10, Custer 2, Elmore 18, Fremont 2, Gem 9, Gooding 6, Idaho 3, Jefferson 4, Jerome 35, Kootenai 48, Latah 3, Lincoln 15, Madison 5, Minidoka 6, Nez Perce 20, Owyhee 4, Payette 10, Power 2, Teton 6, Twin Falls 89, Valley 2 and Washington 1.

As of Wednesday evening, 41 Idahoans had died because of the coronavirus.

Idaho has confirmed community spread in 13 counties: Ada, Bingham, Blaine, Bonneville, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Jefferson, Kootenai, Madison, Payette, Teton and Twin Falls.

Jobless claims in Idaho approach 100,000

Claims by newly jobless Idahoans for unemployment compensation are still flooding into the state Department of Labor.

The department said Thursday that 18,531 former workers filed claims in the week that ended last Saturday, April 11. That is a 44% drop from the previous week but still higher than any week since 2013 before the coronavirus reached the crisis stage in Idaho in mid-March.

Nearly 96,000 people have applied for unemployment compensation since Gov. Brad Little declared a state of emergency on March 13, the department said in a news release.

Add those to the nearly 25,000 Idahoans who were already unemployed, and nearly 1 in 7 members of Idaho’s workforce is now jobless. The tally means about 13.6 percent of the state’s 890,000-member workforce is unemployed, the highest on record.

Nearly half of last week’s claims came from workers in hotels, restaurants, stores, health-care businesses and social assistance, a category that includes counseling, vocational rehabilitation and day care. Most — 53% — of the claimants are women. Workers ages 25 to 34 make up 26% of them, the largest group by age.

Employee at Hayden senior care facility tests positive for coronavirus

One employee at the Honeysuckle Senior Living facility in Hayden has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Katherine Hoyer, public information officer for the Panhandle Heath District. Hoyer said in an email Thursday that the employee is the only known case at the facility.

“The facility is doing all they can to keep their staff and patients safe and healthy,” Hoyer said.

Kootenai County, where Hayden is located, has seen a total of 49 positive coronavirus cases. In total, Panhandle has documented 53 positive cases, with the remaining four cases in Bonner County.

Food trucks allowed at rest areas

Food truck owners have a new spot to sling tasty eats during the pandemic.

The Idaho Transportation Department has made an emergency exemption to allow them to set up at rest areas.

“We heard truck drivers were having difficulties finding hot meals with the restrictions placed on nonessential businesses during the stay-at-home order,” Nestor Fernandez, ITD’s mobility services engineer, said in a news release. “Our goal is to support them as best as we can during this pandemic, especially long-haul drivers delivering goods across the U.S.”

Up to two food trucks will be permitted at each rest area. They will not be allowed at areas already offering the same services and under public-private management, the ITD said.

“We don’t want to attract crowds and will advise permitted vendors to follow health care guidelines,” Fenandez said.

Sid Gauby, president of the Southern Idaho Food Truck Association, said he welcomed the opportunity. But he wasn’t sure how many food trucks would participate.

“A number of trucks don’t go that far on a regular basis,” Gauby said in a phone interview. “I think it’s going to be an opportunity for folks that don’t have any other options.”

“Right now, they are giving trucks a weeklong permit, and so if trucks are thinking about it, they’re going, ‘Well, how many days can I go out there? Do I have other days that are already committed? Am I wanting to make that big of a commitment to that location and say no to other locations that I might have set up?’”

Nampa food truck Windy’s Whip & Drizzle visited the Blacks Creek Rest Area on Interstate 84 on Tuesday and Wednesday, owner Windy Snook said. It was a 37-minute drive for her, but she will do it again.

“I gotta do something,” she said.

Most of the customers were truck drivers, she said, “and they’re all grateful. In addition to feeding them, we gave everybody free cupcakes.”

“Everybody’s attitude being very nice and polite, it really makes it worth it to me. As long as I’m not losing money, I’ll keep doing it.”

In the end, food trucks at rest areas probably will be a temporary phenomenon. The ITD said it does not plan to continue the exemption after the state’s stay-at-home order ends and restrictions are relaxed on restaurants and nonessential businesses.

Online petition calls for Little’s impeachment

An online petition with over 1,000 signatures as of Thursday calls for Gov. Brad Little to be impeached.

The petition, started change.org, claims Little violated the rights of Idahoans with his stay home order, first issued on March 25 and renewed on Wednesday.

“Governor Brad Little, and by proxy, his Health and Welfare Director David Jeppesen, has violated his oath of office to uphold the United States and Idaho Constitutions,” the petition reads.

The petition argues that the country’s founders were “well aware” of the dangers of viruses when drafting the U.S. Constitution, and did not exceptions for executive powers in the event of a pandemic.

“They understood that the people had to be responsible for the health of the people and the government could never carry out this task,” the petition reads.

The petition goes on to accuse Little of violating the U.S. Constitution and Idaho Constitution in a variety of ways, ranging from violating the First Amendment right of assembly to violating Article I Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution giving every citizen the right to “certain unalienable rights.

Idaho National Guard packs food for schoolchildren

Idaho National Guard troops and other volunteers have packed 1,300 boxes, each with enough food for 10 breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks, to benefit children in Southwest Idaho.

The packing took place at Boise Centre, whose lunches, banquets and other gatherings have been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. The effort was organized by the Idaho Foodbank for its Backpack food program, which normally distributes food backpacks through schools whose buildings are now closed.

“This is why people join the Guard,” Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, Idaho’s adjutant general, said in a news release from Boise Centre and the Foodbank. “Not only do we train to serve our nation in times of war, we also come to the aid of our fellow citizens in times of need.”

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©2020 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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