TWIN FALLS — While no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, have been found in Idaho, widespread event cancellations and changes hit the state Thursday along with the rest of the nation.
State officials say 93 people in Idaho have so far been tested, but no one has been positive.
As cases piled up in other states and major events around the nation were canceled, Magic Valley institutions joined in announcing precautions.
College of Southern Idaho
The College of Southern Idaho will move all classes online beginning March 30 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The school announced the decision in a Thursday statement.
“Our campus mission during this pandemic event is to ensure the health and safety of our campus community,” President Jeff Fox wrote in the statement. “We are also focused on making sure that our students are able to complete their courses while preparing contingencies to ensure the functionality of our campus operations.”
Students are encouraged to avoid returning to campus, if possible, following spring break. Eagle Hall, Eagle View Apartments, Northview Apartments, the Taylor Cafeteria and campus computer labs will remain open for those unable to return home.
Ending in-person instruction, especially in the middle of a semester, was a difficult decision, Fox wrote. CSI is committed to providing the necessary resources to equip all faculty for success with online instruction, he wrote.
“We recognize that this will cause significant disappointment to many students, faculty, and staff,” he wrote. “However, our first priority must be to keep the members of our community as safe as possible.”
Other events, school-supported travel, exchange programs and athletics are canceled until further notice beginning Monday. The CSI Recreation Center will close Friday until further notice.
The CSI Early Learning Center, preschool lab, toddler lab and kindergarten class will also be canceled until further notice starting on March 30.
Twin Falls School District announced a series of precautions to be implemented immediately, including banning crowds of more than 250 people in district facilities.
CSI is the first of Idaho’s colleges and universities to announce the switch to online classes, but more could make the decision soon.
Idaho State Board of Education will hold a special meeting Friday with the presidents of Idaho’s higher education institutions.
“Our institutions have been planning for some time regarding implications for campus operations in the wake of this public health crisis,” Board President Debbie Critchfield said in a statement. “I continue to be in contact with the Governor, institution presidents and other state officials. Ultimately, it will be up to the full Board to decide what steps should be taken regarding higher education, including if closures are warranted and if so, when.”
Twin Falls School District
Parent-teacher conferences will take place over the phone and crowds will be limited as Twin Falls schools work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The district announced these and other precautions that will be adopted immediately in an email to parents and staff on Thursday.
“Other restrictions and precautions may be implemented when cases are identified in Idaho based on recommendations from the Governor and South Central Public Health District,” the statement says. “We are also in the process of identifying strategies for distance learning should we have the need to close school.”
The district is halting indoor gatherings in confined areas (gyms, auditoriums, cafeterias, etc.) of more than 250 people at any time in any district building, including school and community events.
“This may require schools to stagger lunches, cancel assemblies, postpone events, etc.,” the statement says.
Additionally, all parent-teacher conferences will take place over the phone and there will be no face-to-face conferences. Out of state travel for students and staff — such as senior trips, conferences, field trips, etc. — is suspended until further notice. The suspension may be extended to out of district travel in the future.
The district is also suspending attendance policies related to credits, finals, awards, etc., though student absences must still be verified.
Outdoor activities will continue until further notice.
Staff or students with symptoms of the illness will need to be cleared by medical personnel before returning to school.
Lights and Lasers
In Twin Falls, event organizers said ticket sales for the Lights and Lasers show at Shoshone Falls were being postponed due to fears about large gatherings. The show was scheduled for May 15-17 and 22-25 and tickets were supposed to go on sale this week.
Sun Valley Film Festival
The Sun Valley Film Festival announced Thursday that it was canceling its festival, which was scheduled for March 18-22.
“We are actively supporting the global and local effort to combat this pandemic by canceling this year’s Festival,” Festival Executive Director Teddy Grennan said in a statement. “The health and safety of our community and all of our participants is our top priority and we know this is the right and responsible decision. We look forward to seeing you all next year for our 10th anniversary in 2021.”
Twin Falls city officials posted on Facebook seeking to ease concerns about the city’s water system.
“We’ve heard concerns from residents about their drinking water, so we want to reassure residents that your drinking water is safe, the city posted. “The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, will remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Twin Falls city events
Twin Falls city officials said no special events the city is involved with have been canceled and City Hall remains open as of Thursday afternoon.
The city created a local task force that includes members of the Twin Falls Fire Department, St. Luke’s Magic Valley Hospital, Magic Valley Paramedics and emergency communication centers. The task force is developing procedures to respond to patients who display the symptoms of COVID-19.
To help prevent the spread of the virus, the city has put in place procedures to limit exposure to the public, such as: suspending all non-essential travel for city employees; having first-responders wear protective clothing and equipment when responding to respiratory cases or potential COVID-19 cases; ensuring that any sick employee stays home until symptoms improve, or they are evaluated by a medical professional; canceling all facility tours and non-essential gatherings; and other simple steps such as avoiding shaking hands or being in close proximity to others.
Camp Rainbow Gold’s Share Your Heart Ball
The annual Share Your Heart Ball, a fundraiser for Camp Rainbow Gold, has been postponed.
The event was scheduled for Saturday at the Sun Valley Inn.
Camp Rainbow Gold is a nonprofit that provides camp experiences for kids with cancer and their families.
Falls2Falls Run/Walk, Spirit of Magic Valley half marathon, 10K, 5K and kids run, and Cycle Magic Valley
Jaime Tigue, Director of MaVTEC (Magic Valley Trail Enhancement Committee), said in a statement on the organization’s Facebook page Thursday that none of their spring events would be cancelled unless there is a mandatory push from Twin Falls city or county governments to do so. This includes the Falls2Falls Run/Walk on April 18, Spirit of Magic Valley half marathon, 10K, 5K and kids run on May 9, and Cycle Magic Valley on May 16.
The organization will not be offering refunds for participants already registered for the events, but will transfer race entries to another person if requested more than a day before the race.
People already registered can also ask to participate in a virtual race, where the person sends in a photo of themselves doing the race on their own. The organization will mail a shirt and medal to the participant.
Questions about race participation can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sun Valley Resort events
The Sun Valley Resort remains open, but is limiting some hosted gatherings, including Kindercup, Easter Egg Hunt, Dollar Days, Baldy Bash, Apres Ski Concerts.
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