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Coronavirus hasn't hit Idaho yet, but stores are being cleaned out of some supplies

Idaho Statesman - 3/4/2020

Mar. 4--Roy Lemos walked out of the Boise Costco store late Tuesday morning, wheeling a cart with six cases of drinking water. A second cart held six more cases.

He wasn't the only one. Seemingly every other cart leaving the store had a case or two of drinking water, or packages of toilet paper. Or both.

Although Idaho still has no cases of coronavirus, also being called Covid-19, some people are shopping as if there's an epidemic here.

At the Fred Meyer store at the corner of Franklin Road and Orchard Avenue, the shelves where you'd normally find Clorox and other disinfectant wipes were empty at 5 p.m. Tuesday. A sign hanging in the bleach aisle informed shoppers that they were limited to five such products per customer.

Lemos said his family stocks up on drinking water, 20 to 30 cases, for use during the summer. He said he was buying the 12 cases of water for his adult daughters.

"My girls aren't in what I would say is panic mode," Lemos said. "I think they're just concerned about the possibility of shortages."

Customers said they were told Costco had run out of bottled water and toilet paper for three days in a row. And with stocks dwindling before noon on Tuesday, the store was likely to run out for a fourth day.

Costco would not answer questions about the availability of products at its Boise and Nampa stores. A spokeswoman at the company's headquarters in Issaquah, Washington, who asked not to be identified, said the company had received numerous inquiries from reporters seeking information about how Costco has responded to the surge in interest in emergency supplies.

"Costco is not staffed to respond individually to all these questions," she said by email.

A spot check of several grocery stores and pharmacies in Boise showed low supplies of toilet paper, drinking water, disinfectant wipes and isopropyl alcohol at some sites, but close-to-normal amounts in others.

Calls and emails to a number of local chains -- Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Rite-Aid, Walgreens and CVS -- were not returned.

Coronavirus risk in Idaho is low

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says the risk of the coronavirus in Idaho is low. No confirmed cases have been found in the state.

Although 33 people have been monitored with possible symptoms at some point, only six are currently under monitoring, the department said. Three people were tested for the virus, but the results were negative.

Micron Technology is scanning employees and visitors to its Boise campus for high temperatures. A monitor shows red for anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher, and they're not allowed to enter.

The company would not say whether anyone has been turned away.

"Micron has asked team members who are unwell to stay home to focus on their own health and to avoid the spread of germs to others," company spokeswoman Mayra Tostado said by email. "This preventative measure was implemented at all Micron sites and team members have cooperated to ensure the wellness of our teams."

Two large events taking place in Boise later this month will draw large crowds and plenty of travelers, which could complicate matters.

The Big Sky Conference is holding its men's and women's basketball tournaments in downtown Boise next week. Teams and fans will come from Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Montana, California, Colorado and Arizona.

The conference, based in Farmington, Utah, said it is working to develop a plan to protect players, coaches and other team personnel and fans as much as possible.

"We're monitoring everything and working to get hand sanitizers to CenutryLink Arena," Jon Kasper, the conference's senior associate commissioner, said by phone.

The conference's doctor is developing a document containing procedures to be used during the tournament, Kasper said.

The women's teams play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, while the men's teams play Wednesday through Saturday next week.

Treefort and travel

The annual Treefort Music Fest will take place March 25-29 in downtown Boise. It will attract thousands of fans, many of whom are local, and hundreds of band members, many of whom are not.

Festival organizers say they are working on a plan.

"We are in contact with safety and health officials to be proactive in keeping people attending Treefort safe," festival spokeswoman Marissa Lovell said by email. "We've also been talking with other festivals about their plans and preparations."

The huge South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, is scheduled for March 13-22. A petition at calling for its cancellation has garnered tens of thousands of signatures, but so far SXSW has no plans to cancel, according to KVUE-TV in Austin and other media outlets.

Many tech companies that have a regular presence at SXSW, including Twitter and Facebook, have announced that they won't be in attendance, however.


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