From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A Reminder to Get Your Flu Shot and Recognizing Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month

Each year, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) reminds Idahoans to get their flu shots in preparation for the flu season. This year, the stakes are even higher. Even if you normally get your flu shot in October, the time to start thinking about it (and getting it) is now. Flu shots are available at your local pharmacies, supermarkets, and primary care clinics (an appointment is usually not necessary). Please call your primary care physician if you have questions.

Why is the flu shot so important in 2020?

Both the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses affecting your lungs and breathing and can be spread to others. Adding the flu to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could overburden our healthcare system and strain our testing capacity.

Getting your flu shot is a safe, inexpensive way to stay healthy and protect those most vulnerable from the flu, our elderly residents and those with underlying health conditions.

Is mask wearing and social distancing working here in Idaho?

I recently received a question from an Idahoan, and he asked me about a comment I made during the AARP Town Hall last week, where I stated that mask-wearing and social distancing were working here in Idaho. How did I know that?

Great question. Like many of you, I watch the data about COVID-19 in Idaho pretty closely. (It can be found at Coronavirus.Idaho.gov and specifically at https://public.tableau.com/profile/idaho.division.of.public.health#!/vizhome/DPHIdahoCOVID-19Dashboard/Home.) In addition, the metrics used at the state level to determine moving out of Stage 4 are found on Rebound.Idaho.gov. The most recent set is at https://rebound.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/gating-criteria-aug19-sept2.pdf.

The numbers for cases, case incident rate per 100,000 people, testing positivity and hospitalizations started increasing significantly at the end of June and through July. However, in August those numbers started to level and then decline. That decline has continued in September. I do want to emphasize that the numbers are still too high at the overall state level, but we are headed the right direction. 

Through the course of the summer, we have observed a higher utilization of face coverings and physical distancing across the state. This increase has occurred due to strong recommendations from Gov. Brad Little, DHW, the public health districts, and Idaho healthcare providers. In some cases the public health districts and cities have mandated masks. In addition, many national and local retailers have also required face coverings. Based on what we know at this time, we can surmise that the increase in the number of people wearing masks and keeping their distance has been a contributing factor in the declining numbers.

September is Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month

Mental health issues and substance use disorders are prevalent in Idaho communities – 1 in 4 Idahoans live with some form of mental illness or substance use disorder. It’s imperative that people in Idaho understand how to seek help. Along with the Division of Behavioral Health (DBH), the department is recognizing September as Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month: Finding Hope, Building Resiliency, Supporting Recovery in Idaho. 

To address this significant problem, Gov. Brad Little has issued a proclamation to recognize September as Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month to raise awareness about prevention, treatment, and recovery support services in the state. Neighboring states Oregon and Washington have joined Idaho in proclaiming September to be Recovery and Suicide Prevention Month.

We encourage all Idaho residents to join a recovery event in your local community to highlight the significance of helping people in need of prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, while also celebrating the accomplishments of people in recovery. To find a recovery center near you, please visit the Community-Based Supports on the Substance Use Disorder Services home page.

To find help near you, please visit the home page for Idaho Mental Health Services.

See the proclamation and print it for use at local Recovery Month events and for display in your community.

A thank you

Thank you for keeping your families and communities safe by maintaining six feet between you and others when in public places, wearing a mask/face covering in public, covering coughs and sneezes, and washing your hands often. Your hard work is paying off, but particularly as we head into flu season and cooler weather that will drive more people inside, it is more important than ever that all of us practice these simple things.

Have a great weekend, and #MaskUpIdaho.

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