Essential municipal services remain business as usual, though several city halls and other public facilities are closed as Idaho County communities prepare for the ongoing coronavirus situation.

For protection of both the public and city staff from coronavirus exposure, city halls at Ferdinand, Kooskia, Riggins and White Bird have been closed to the public. City staff will be available by phone: Kooskia (208-926-4684), Riggins (208-628-3394) or White Bird (208-839-2294). Payments may be made by mail, online, or at city hall drop boxes, where available.

Local disaster emergencies have been declared in Cottonwood, Kooskia, Grangeville, Riggins and Stites. The City of White Bird will hold a special meeting today, March 25, to declare an emergency.

At its Tuesday meeting, March 24, the Idaho County Commission declared a local disaster, and authorized the county’s disaster management coordinator, Jerry Zumalt, as its point of contact.

“Everything has ground to a halt,” said Cottonwood Mayor Pepper Harman at Monday’s special council meeting, March 23, where his emergency declaration was extended to run concurrently with the State of Idaho’s. The declaration was put in place, he said, in the event local businesses need to draw on aid or emergency funding.

“There’s going to be some people hurting because of this, and it’s already causing waves throughout the whole country,” Harman said.

Declarations by local municipalities are not in response to any outbreak, but rather, they allow access to federal, state and local supplemental funding and resources to protect community health and safety. Filing now allows costs incurred at this time to be eligible for funding.

“Sad to say, it’s already costing businesses in town,” said Grangeville Mayor Wes Lester, at last Thursday’s March 19 special council meeting to declare an emergency. At area restaurants that week, he noted numbers are down. “I understand people are nervous …. I can’t tell people to eat out and I’m not going to tell them to stay at home, either,” adding people need to be the best judge but, “If you are sick, the best place for you is home.”

Grangeville Police Chief Morgan Drew commented that, “The level of calm out there has been very impressive, and we’re thankful to folks for taking this seriously. There’s a lot of good folks in this town.”

As of press time Tuesday, no coronavirus cases have been confirmed within the five-county North Central Health District (Idaho, Lewis, Clearwater, Nez Perce and Latah).

Libraries have been closed to the public at Kamiah, Kooskia, Grangeville and Riggins. Grangeville Centennial Library is offering curbside service for circulation items, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; call 208-983-0951; order online at valnet.org or e-mail: library@grangeville.us .

For additional facilities, Riggins City Clerk reported the Riggins Community Center and Salmon River Heritage Center have also been temporarily closed.

At the March 16 Grangeville City Council meeting, public works director said a freight slowdown could cause issues; however, the department is stocked with supplies, and vehicles are topped off with fuel. City utility services – water and sewer – will continue, as usual. Also the city’s fire chief, Mager said on emergency services, ‘If we get a call, we go,” noting the department, a few short years ago, operated with six people. Fill-in people are also available to call on.

“And we have officers, EMTs would help,” he said. “All of us in the responders world are family. We come together in a situation, and everyone covers everyone.”

On Monday, St. Mary’s Hospital (SMH) in Cottonwood announced changes at their facilities for public access, notably a single point of entry. Visitors will be screened prior to entering reception or patient areas. Those experiencing mild symptoms should call the clinic for instructions prior to coming to the facility.

Syringa Hospital in Grangeville has also enacted a strict visitor policy.

More on hospital precautions and procedures online at www.idahocountyfreepress.com/news/covid-19/ .

Last Thursday, March 19, the Idaho County Driver’s License Office was closed to the public until further notice, as per the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office. Services suspended include all fingerprinting, concealed weapons permit applications, both initial and renewal, and no money will be taken for jail inmates. The Idaho County Civil Department will be available by appointment only; call 208-983-1100, option 7.

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