Empty ISU campus

With Idaho State University starting its spring break early because of the coronavirus, the school's Pocatello campus was nearly deserted on Wednesday afternoon.

There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in Southeast Idaho, but the region is preparing as if there will be.

With coronavirus cases confirmed in surrounding areas, Idaho Falls and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes made emergency declarations this week, plus the Pebble Creek Ski Area notably announced it was closing for the season starting Thursday.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper signed a Declaration of Local Disaster Emergency on Wednesday, which she said will allow the city to cull potential available funding at the state and federal level in the future.

“A declaration of emergency is not a reflection on the state of readiness or ability to respond to everyday needs,” Casper stated in a press release. “It is just another way that we are being proactive to respond to this situation.”

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes implemented an emergency operation plan and activated its Office of Emergency Management Operation Center on Tuesday. The center is organizing resources and collaborating with the state of Idaho to minimize the harm caused by coronavirus.

The Pocatello City Council may adopt a resolution triggering a Declaration of Local Disaster Emergency in Thursday’s meeting, according to its agenda.

This is in light of counties around the region having confirmed coronavirus cases, as Madison and Teton Counties in Idaho and Cache County in Northern Utah all have at least one confirmed coronavirus case.

There are 11 confirmed coronavirus cases in Idaho and 7,038 in the United States as of Wednesday night.

Southeastern Idaho Public Health issued a press release Wednesday, asking that social gatherings have no more than 10 people and people not visit nursing homes, retirement communities or long-term care facilities unless it is to provide important assistance.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus and Smith’s Food & Drug Stores were the latest business to announce plans to offer special hours for only seniors. Smith’s is dedicating the first hour of business from 7 to 8 a.m. to seniors on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until further notice.

While local stores remain open, closings continue to mount.

In a press release announcing Pebble Creek Ski Area’s early closure, officials said the lodge and base area will be closed to the public as staff set up the seasonal closure. The resort will be offering no first aid or rescue services for the rest of the season.

The Mountain View Event Center in Pocatello announced Wednesday that it will be closed through at least March 29.

“We know this represents an inconvenience to our many customers and patrons,” said Raul Cano, Pocatello-Chubbuck Auditorium District executive director, in a statement. “But we have an obligation to think first of public safety. Health authorities across the board have determined that public gatherings in places like our facility represent one of the primary ways coronavirus is spread.”

The College of Eastern Idaho announced Wednesday it will close its campus to the public from Thursday until at least March 30, which covers spring break on the week of March 23. The college’s staff will continue to be allowed to work on campus.

In response to the coronavirus threat, Idaho State University started spring break earlier than normal and announced on Friday that there would be no in-person classes at the school’s campuses for the rest of the semester.

The Caribou-Targhee National Forest Service asked anyone who has closely encountered a person with COVID-19 or experienced COVID-19, cold or flu symptoms to avoid vising their local office.

The Bank of Commerce in Pocatello has closed its lobby, but is offering drive-thru service and in-person appointment set up by phone.

The Power County Commissioners decided Tuesday to close all county offices to the public. The county’s residents are asked to call first if they want to set up an in-person appointment.

The Pocatello Police Department announced Wednesday it is suspending finger-printing services and the citizen ride-along program, while no one will be at the volunteer desk.

The police department is also changing how it handles some calls, taking reports over the phone for vehicle burglaries and thefts if there is no evidence or signs of forced entry at the scene.

Power County Sheriff Jim Jeffries partially closed his driver’s license office until further notice. The office will allow one person in the office at a time. The sheriff’s office will not be doing fingerprints.

The Idaho Transportation Department instituted an automatic extension of driver’s licenses until June 30 for those who have licenses that expire after Feb. 29, which led to changes locally.

Bannock County Sheriff’s Office stated Wednesday the driver’s license staff will only serve residents whose drivers’ licenses have expired before March 1.

The office is no longer serving anyone under the age of 18 and is allowing one resident into the office at a time. These restriction will remain in place until further notice.

The Bannock County Jail has suspended any outside visitors from entering the detention center.