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Officials in Valley County plead for visitors to stay away, at least right now

Stay-at-home order doesn't seem to be deterring tourists from all over Idaho and the nation, commissioner says.

CASCADE, Idaho — Despite a statewide stay-at-home order from Idaho's governor, Valley County continues to see a lot of visitors, no doubt heeding the call of the county's mountains and lakes.

Valley County's government authorities are putting out a call of a different kind: stay home.

That plea comes after McCall Police asked the pilot of a plane from Seattle to turn around and leave after landing in McCall.

The city attorney said that happened one day after Gov. Brad Little issued the stay-at-home order. Because the plane was coming from an area with known community spread of COVID-19 at the time, the city was taking extra precautions.

Now that community spread of COVID-19 has also been confirmed in many parts of Idaho, including the Treasure Valley, the plea for compliance with the stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines is growing in urgency.

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"We are a very warm and open community, however right now it is frustrating," said Sherry Maupin, a Valley County commissioner. "We are asking people to stay at your first residence. We do not have the health care facilities here."

Law enforcement officers are noticing the continued influx of visitors, too.

"Now we're starting to see more out-of-town plates with dirt bikes, campers and those types of things coming up and coming through," said McCall Police chief Justin Williams.

"As far as just stopping for license plates, we're not doing that, said Valley Co. Sheriff Kevin Copperi. "We're not stopping just because you don't have a Valley County plate. That's not in our purview at this point, and I hope it does not come to that. There's still probable cause to stop cars and everything like that we're following."

The governor's order is enforceable by a misdemeanor code, but both the Valley County Sheriff's Office and McCall Police told KTVB they're trying to do enforcement by education. They're asking would-be visitors to stay in their own respective cities because of the fear of community spread.

"Our community, if we were hit like others, we would be decimated," Williams said. "We don't have the beds at the hospitals that other places have, we don't have the ventilators that other places have, we could not survive that type of incident in our city, but yet we're a tourist attraction that survives off of people visiting our city."

RELATED: Blaine County ER doctor says areas that don't practice social distancing will be hit hard by COVID-19

He goes on to say, the spread would directly impact his department.

"If one of our officers becomes sick, if they get the symptoms, it could seriously cripple our law enforcement services to the city of McCall because we only have nine total and if one of us gets sick and we have to quarantine how many other employees are we going to have to quarantine," Williams said. 

As for vacation rentals and Airbnb in the area, cities have requested that hotels, motels and short term rentals close down unless they're operating for essential services personnel. The county has also passed an ordinance that short term rentals shut down until May 15. Commissioner Maupin told KTVB, there will be a time they will open their arms to visitors, but now is not the time.

RELATED: Small Idaho mountain towns see influx of visitors, want tourists to stay home amid coronavirus fears

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