Events answer call for social distancing

by Caroline Lobsinger
Staff Writer | March 26, 2020 1:00 AM

SPOT to keep running to transport riders to essential destinations

SANDPOINT — Shortly before Governor Brad Little announced a stay-at-home order for the state of Idaho, another round of cancellations were reported as programs, agencies and facilities answered the call for social distancing to help stem the novel coronavirus.

What hasn’t been canceled is the Selkirks Pend-Oreille Transit bus system, which is maintaining its normal blue and green route schedules to transport riders to essential destinations, consistent with the governor’s stay-home order, SPOT Director David Sims said in a press release. SPOT’s paratransit services are also operating normally.

Following Federal Transit Administration guidelines, SPOT has implemented enhanced bus cleaning and disinfection procedures to help ensure the safety of riders and drivers.

“We are asking all riders to follow social distancing guidelines when entering and exiting the buses and when selecting a seat on the bus,” Sim said.

The annual Idaho State Forestry Contest was among those canceled due to concerns about COVID-19. The annual contest introduces students in grades 5 through 12 to basic forestry and resource management skills. More than 250 volunteers donated their time to help run the contest in past years and a record 700 students from around the state participated in 2019.

Held the second Thursday in May at the Delay Farm in Careywood, the contest is sponsored by the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District, U.S. Forest Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“The decision to cancel was made to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in preparing for and/or attending the contest.,” officials said in a press release. “Although it is disappointing not to have the contest this year, plans are already underway for the 2021 Idaho State Forestry Contest.”

Due to concerns over COVID-19, the Rotary Club of Sandpoint’s Annual Murder Mystery Gala, “A Dinner to Die For,” set for May 2, was postponed to a later date.

This annual event, benefiting Food For Our Children and Sandpoint Rotary-sponsored projects, especially those focused on youth.

“It is my hope that this very important event benefiting our community can be rescheduled soon,” said Sandpoint Rotary President, Mel Dick. “We are hoping to reschedule for sometime in the early fall.”

Updates on the event, ticket sales, and new event date will be available on the event website at

Given the state of current events associated with the pandemic, the Pearl Theater in Bonners Ferry announced it was closing until further notice. The Pearl board is working with artists to see if booked shows can be rescheduled and will notify members and the public as soon as possible.

The board will honor season tickets for all rescheduled performances. Please contact the Pearl for other refund requests.

“We regret having to close our doors, but at this point, it’s our only viable option to protect performers and audiences,” said Pearl Board president Jessica Tingley. “We will do all we can to reopen as soon as the current crisis is ended, with rescheduled or newly booked acts.”

Memorial Community Center in Hope closed until further notice after Little made his announcement of the stay-at-home order.

To contact MCC’s office administrator, Carolyn Speelmon by email or by leaving a message on our MCC phone (208) 264-5481. We would like to thank you for your understanding and if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kootenai City Council approved an declaration of local disaster emergency by Mayor Nancy Lewis, similar to those signed in neighboring cities, including Sandpoint and Ponderay.

Kootenai officials have closed City Hall to public entry during normal business hours but are still open for business via phone, email and mail until further notice. The city can be reached at 208-265-2431, via email at , or by mail at Box 566 Kootenai ID 83840.

Effective Wednesday evening, the Idaho Lottery will close its Boise office, their main center of operations, to the public with all essential employees working from home, in compliance with Little’s statewide stay-home order. This comes in response to the growing public health emergency posed by COVID-19 in the communities of Idaho, Lottery officials said in a press release.

“We are living in unprecedented times in our country. If you have a winning Idaho Lottery ticket worth more than $600, please, remain in the safety of your home and refrain from coming to Boise to make your claim,” advised Jeff Anderson, Idaho Lottery Director. “To ensure everyone with a winning ticket, large or small, receives their payment, the Lottery will consider extending claiming periods for winning tickets for impacted claimants.”

Most Idaho Lottery retail locations, grocery and convenient stores, have been deemed as essential services by the governor. If those stores are open, all prizes less than $600 may be claimed during their normal hours of operation, per store policy.

All Draw Games will continue to be held. Powerball, Mega Millions, Lotto America and Lucky for Life are drawn out-of-state and drawings will continue to be held. All of Idaho’s draws, Idaho Cash, 5 Star Draw, Idaho Pick 3, and Weekly Grand will also continue without interruption.

The stay-home order followed news from the Northeast Tri County Health District there had been the first positive COVID-19 test for a Ferry County resident and of a second case within Stevens County. Both individuals are not currently hospitalized and are isolating themselves at home. To protect the privacy of those testing positive, information that may lead to a person’s identity being revealed will not be disclosed.

NETCHD is notifying potential close contacts and these individuals will be given additional guidance and advised of precautions they should take.

“We understand news of these confirmed cases in our community can create fear and uncertainty,” health district officials said. “NETCHD continues to work aggressively with our medical providers, emergency management teams, and community partners to protect the health of the public.”

It is likely that more cases will be confirmed in the area, NETCHD officials said. “We are strongly urging everyone to abide by Governor Inslee’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order. COVID-19 has shown that it is not limited to specific communities, work sites, or individuals. We must do our individual part to reduce the spread by staying home whenever possible and limiting contact with others”

The order is similar to Idaho’s stay-home order.

Within Washington state, there have been a total of 2,469 cases of COVID-19 and 123 deaths. In Idaho, there are 91 reported cases of COVID-19, including nine in Kootenai County, and no deaths.

Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.