CALDWELL, Idaho — Before March, things were going pretty well for the City of Caldwell, according to Mayor Garret Nancolas.
The city was growing, adding 10,000 newcomers to Caldwell over the last decade. The construction of the Indian Creek Plaza revitalized Caldwell, drawing thousands of visitors from the surrounding cities and counties to dine, shop and play, pumping money in Caldwell's economy.
Then the pandemic hit.
“It was very concerning for us to see the two extremes, from explosion to more people than we’ve ever seen in our downtown, to literally vacant downtown,” Nancolas said.
Cities across the Treasure Valley have grappled with the spread of the pandemic in different ways. Unlike Boise, which issued a mask mandate after cases in Ada County began to spike, face-coverings are simply "encouraged" in the city of Caldwell.
The mayor says the city has established a policy for city employees to wear masks if they are going to be in close proximity to other people.
Although new COVID-19 cases have been trending downward recently in Canyon County, Southwest District Health still has the area in the "red" category.
And of the tests being done, more are coming back positive, with Saltzer Health reporting a 15% positivity rate in Canyon County.
"[We are in] constant communication with our medical community," Nancolas said. "Communicating literally daily sometimes on social media, with the citizens, again asking them to stay home to wear masks.”
So far, 36 people have died from coronavirus in Caldwell. More than half of those victims were in long-term care facilities.
The mayor said he considers maintaining the safety of those facilities a major priority.
“Obviously our heart goes out to everybody that has been affected by this pandemic,” he said. “Our safety services have been working very closely with the senior facilities making sure protocols are being followed and adhered to there, especially if our officers are called to those facilities, making sure they have the appropriate PPE.”
Caldwell is also working to help those affected by job loss and the financial impacts that have accompanied the pandemic. The city launched the Kickstart Caldwell program to help residents connect with resources through the CARES Act and the payroll protection plan. Nancolas said that his office has also kept in communication with local businesses about City Hall closures and other closures that affect them.
Despite recommendations from Southwest District Health, the mayor says downtown activities are starting to pick up again.
Indian Creek Plaza has hosted events including concerts, worship services, and farmers' markets.
Nancolas said he hopes Caldwell residents will be patient and help one another as the city works to move through the pandemic.
“My message is we understand, we’re here to help, the city is here to serve you. Be kind, have patience with one another, wear a mask: it’s not just for you you’re wearing a mask, it’s for others,” he said. “If we pull together, have patience, kindness, and respect for one another, we’ll get through this.”
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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