DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Wear a mask in support of Idaho’s economy

As you know, Gov. Brad Little announced yesterday that Idaho will remain in Stage 4 of the reopening plan for at least two more weeks. Like you, I am troubled by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Idaho. I am asking you, the Idahoans who love this state as much as I do, to help us slow the spread.

What is one easy thing that you can do? Wear a mask or cloth face covering when you are in public places. This is critical to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing a mask or cloth face covering is not only a sign of mutual respect to your friends, neighbors, and community, but there is abundant evidence that masks or cloth face coverings help prevent the virus from spreading. It also shows your commitment to local businesses and Idaho’s economy. It’s such a simple thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that masks or cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.

Why is it especially important to wear a face covering?

  • It’s easy to spread the virus just talking or breathing. 
  • The coronavirus is highly contagious. Without mitigation efforts like stay-home orders or using recommended precautions, people who have the virus can infect, on average, another two to three people. That makes it twice as contagious as the flu, according to research from the National Institutes of Health.
  • It’s easy to spread without any symptoms, either from asymptomatic carriers or pre-symptomatic carriers.
  • It has a long incubation period, up to 14 days.
  • Carriers may be the most contagious in the 48 hours before they show symptoms.

The bottom line is that you can get the virus very easily and from people who don’t even know they are sick. Conversely, you can easily give it to others and not even know you have COVID-19.

Is there research that shows masks or cloth face coverings work?

Yes. In a recent editorial from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), research showed that adherence to universal masking policies decreased the number of positive COVID-19 virus test results within a Boston hospital system. In a recent study from CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the evidence showed that wearing a mask prevented the spread of the virus from two Missouri hair stylists to their 139 customers. In my blog from July 17, I outlined other studies that support the use of masks or face coverings.

How does wearing a mask help the economy?

Wearing a mask or cloth face covering helps businesses stay open. Even if stores are open, customers are likely to stay away if they feel they are at risk from COVID-19. That is why you see many businesses asking their customers to wear a mask or cloth face covering; they want to protect their business and their customers. In addition, businesses cannot stay open if their staff are sick, and they don’t have sufficient staffing to maintain their business.

State-level data shows a decline in consumer spending in the United States. Between January and April of this year, spending by the average American household decreased by $1,000. According to Yelp, nearly 16,000 restaurants in the United States have permanently closed. The economic impact of COVID-19 is real.

At this time, there are many nationwide and regional businesses requiring customers to “mask up” including:

  • Albertsons
  • Apple
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Best Buy
  • Costco
  • CVS
  • Home Depot
  • Fred Meyer
  • Kohl’s
  • Lowe’s
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods Market
  • WinCo

This list is not comprehensive, but these businesses (and others, including local businesses) are committed to slowing the spread of COVID-19. They are committed to protecting you and others in your community when you shop with them. I encourage you to support those businesses who are mindful of your health.

My ask is simple. Let’s all work together to keep Idaho’s economy on stable ground and all Idahoans healthy. Let’s #MaskUpIdaho.

Stay safe and stay healthy this week. And, please help keep our economy healthy, too.

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