The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (DHW) mission is to promote and protect the health and safety of all Idahoans. I have had the privilege of being the director of DHW since January 2019. There’s no other job I would rather have and no place that I would rather be than serving the people of my home state.
I was born in Burley, Idaho, and I grew up in Ammon, a suburb of Idaho Falls. I went to college at Idaho State University in Pocatello. My wife and I, and our four children, have lived in the Treasure Valley for the past 10 years.
While these troubling times have changed our world, they have also brought out the best in all of us. The people of Idaho have showed heart by practicing social distancing and staying home when asked to help protect our most vulnerable residents. We have banded together to slow the spread of COVID-19, which makes me proud to be an Idahoan.
I want to personally thank the frontline of this battle: healthcare workers, grocery store employees, truck drivers, first responders, mail carriers, delivery personnel, and everyone else who is making sure Idahoans have essential items so there is some normalcy in our daily lives.
Gov. Brad Little appointed me as the chairperson for the Governor’s Working Group for COVID-19 response efforts. This team is working to increase coordination and communication around the many aspects of COVID-19. The Working Group spends countless hours studying research as well as reaching out to hospitals, community leaders, and business leaders. This team wants to make sure we are prepared for whatever COVID-19 brings to our communities.
The Working Group is focused on three things when it comes to COVID-19:
- Healthcare capacity – This not only includes personal protective equipment, hospital beds, and hospital equipment such as ventilators, but also healthcare workers. Keeping healthcare workers healthy and able to work is critical to our healthcare capacity. We are also focused on increasing testing capacity. While there has been progress, it continues to be an area of focus.
- Mitigation efforts – This is all about what we can do to slow the spread of the virus, so we don’t over-run our healthcare capacity. For example, social distancing, good hand hygiene, and the Stay-Home order.
- Treatments, vaccines, and the latest science – We closely track the latest in COVID-19 science and research from across the country and the world, with an eye toward how we can apply what is being learned to Idaho. We also are monitoring research on treatments and vaccines. While we don’t know when treatments and vaccines will be available, we do know that many people and organizations are working around the clock to create them.
To help you, the state of Idaho created the novel coronavirus website. On this site, there is up-to-date information as it relates to Idaho and links to national news and updates at Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 is a new virus, and the information we have about it changes rapidly. We should remain flexible when it comes to how we slow the spread of COVID-19, and I would encourage everyone to regularly check both Idaho’s and the CDC’s websites. These sites are the sources of truth.
On behalf of all DHW, I want you to know we are working to make sure we all can get back to some sense of normalcy as soon as possible. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost someone or something during this pandemic. I understand how much this has affected everyone — it is what keeps me up at night.
Finally, I want you to know that I will be thinking of you all this weekend, as we have different Easter celebrations than we might have anticipated. I want to wish everyone a safe and healthy Easter weekend.