Newmann: The long and winding road

Hailey, Idaho — It’s a beautiful day in Hailey. Sunny and temperatures in the 70s — great conditions for hiking in the hills and biking on the long tracks that meander up and down the valley.

Ketchum and Sun Valley are just down the road and it’s pretty hard to beat this idyllic locale.

Except we’re not supposed to be here.

The plan, which has been in the works for months, originally meant that we’d be in Coeur d’Alene for a family reunion. Lots of festivities, reminiscences … a gathering of my partner’s (and now my) clan.

So we packed up the car in Edwards and, after an overnight in Ogden, arrived in Hailey. And then the wheels started to fall off the plan.

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Folks in this enclave of Idaho (which is encompassed by Blaine County) seem to be pretty aware of the implications of COVID-19. More than 72% of residents over 12 years old have had at least one vaccination (almost 66% have had two doses). While the numbers are less than in Eagle County, they’re still pretty solid.

But the virus started spiking here and, a few days ago, both the county and Hailey initiated indoor mask mandates. Most folks seem to have accepted the idea of the indoor face coverings. And, of course, some haven’t. But Hailey still seems to be rolling along without a massive increase in virus numbers.

The same cannot be said for the Kootenai County, which encompasses the Coeur d’Alene area.

The county, which has slightly over a 41% vaccine rate for a first dose and just under 36 for a second, has been averaging around 113 new cases per day over the past week. There are no mask mandates. ICU beds are under immense pressure and crisis standards of care have been implemented (first for northern Idaho and, just a couple of days ago, for the state).

With a health care system that’s virtually strained to the breaking point, these measures basically mean that medical facilities have to ration health care and triage patients. The result is that ICU beds are being allotted to patients who are most likely to survive. It’s a pretty unfortunate — and a very sad situation.

After lots of conflicting thoughts, we finally made a decision … to stay put.

It’s easy to point fingers, to rail on about the vaccinated or unvaccinated, to take sides. This pandemic has created a rift — politically and socially — where there should only be unity. It has, in short, created a mess of unequaled proportion.

Our little saga is just one of choice, a somewhat wrenching choice — but a choice nonetheless.

It became, at the end of the day, a choice to try to stay safe — and to stay away from an environment that may have compromised that safety.

There are no guarantees that, down the road, we won’t run into a similar COVID maelstrom.

And, maybe, take a different course of action.

In the meantime, we’ll just do what we can to get through this weird saga safely.

Guess, one way or another, that’s true for most of us.

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