Idaho has been fortunate, compared with many states, about the health of its rural hospitals. As we’ve been covering all along, Idaho hospitals have stayed open while those in other states have closed.
But it isn’t clear how much longer we can count on that.
Idaho, as one of the most rural states in the U.S., depends on its rural hospitals even when there isn’t a global pandemic. Obviously, when there is, it’s even more of an issue.
That’s why we considered it such a major issue when our intrepid staff reporter Catie Clark found a study listing seven of Idaho’s hospitals on a list of rural hospitals at risk of closure.
Also in rural health news, two of Idaho’s state senators covering rural districts, Terreton and Blackfoot, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with one of them being hospitalized. Many legislators don’t wear masks, and attempts to allow legislators — many of whom are senior citizens or have underlying health conditions — to serve remotely have been turned down. Two legislative staffers have also been diagnosed recently. There’s still at least six weeks left of the legislative session. It’s going to be an interesting race against time.
In other news, our Focus section this week is on construction, which is always a popular topic. Catie is writing about yet another rural Idaho hospital, the Power County Hospital in American Falls, and how it’s about to complete its planned renovation that will bring many new services to that area.
Catie also wrote about plans to enhance Highway 55 and Highway 44 in Ada and Canyon counties, which primarily involves intersections of designs not yet used or uncommon in Idaho. We’ve all figured out the new style of intersections on I-84 and how to navigate traffic circles, so I expect we’ll learn how to handle them. (Obligatory “I remember when Highway 55 was just two lanes and didn’t even have stop signs” reference.)
Our Q&A this week is with Wendi Secrist, executive director of the Idaho Workforce Development Council, as well as with Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, talking about their plans to help train Idaho’s workers to be the sort of employees that industry needs.
We also covered new flights into and out of Idaho — Allegiant’s flights between Boise and Nashville, United’s flights between Twin Falls and Denver and now Idaho Falls is announcing new flights to Phoenix and Dallas. Late last year, in Square Feet, we covered the issue of getting new flights to Idaho in depth, and it’s nice to see the discussions we reported on at that time bearing fruit.
Finally, Catie — who you may remember is a numbers geek — looked at some statistics about foot traffic in Idaho’s retail sector in the past year. And not to be all Buzzfeed about it, but you’ll never believe what day of the year is the biggest one for McDonald’s.
Sharon Fisher is interim managing editor of the Idaho Business Review.