As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Idaho, Gov. Little announces a return to Stage 2: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

The daily number of cases in the United States is now soaring; over 160,000 just yesterday. In Idaho, we have had day after day of more than 1,000 new cases. On Wednesday, Nov. 11, we had 1,693 new cases in Idaho, the highest number in one day. This can’t continue. It must not continue. Our friends and our neighbors are getting sick. Our frontline workers are stressed. Our hospitals are reaching capacity, which means that they may not be able to provide life-saving care when it’s needed. I know this is not what we all want for Idaho.

Earlier today, Gov. Brad Little announced that Idaho is returning to a modified Stage 2. This includes:

  • Limiting gatherings, both public and private, to less than 10 people, where appropriate physical distancing and precautionary measures can occur. Religious and political institutions are excluded.
  • Physical distance of six feet is required between you and anyone not in your household.
  • Continuing to require masks to be worn at all long-term care facilities.
  • Asking restaurant patrons to be seated at all times (when not using the restroom or entering or exiting the establishment).
  • Encouraging employers to allow their employees to telework.
  • Minimizing non-essential travel.

Additionally, Gov. Little signed a new executive order to mobilize the national guard (100 guardsmen) to help as needed to expand Idaho’s ability to access critical care statewide (e.g. facility decontamination, supply distribution, COVID-19 screenings, etc.).

At the Governor’s press conference, we heard from a young mother, Amelia, who had contracted COVID-19 while she was pregnant and a St. Luke’s respiratory therapist, Rachel, who cares for COVID-19 patients, including Amelia. Their heartfelt pleas to follow recommended precautions and wear masks resonated with me, and I hope it resonated with you.

As Rachel (St. Luke’s) said, “We are a community. We need to take care of each other. The nurses are members of this community. I want to protect you, and I want you to protect me. I am begging you as a healthcare provider; help us take care of each other.”

Her plea is timely. As you may have read, St. Luke’s Health System announced Thursday that in order to proactively manage its capacity for care, it will temporarily stop scheduling certain elective surgeries and procedures that can be delayed 90 or more days without negative consequences. This temporary pause goes into effect Monday, Nov. 16, and will be in place for the next six weeks until Friday, Dec. 25. This is the reality of what is happening in Idaho. We must do all we can to protect our own families, slow the spread of COVID-19, and preserve healthcare capacity.

Safe at home for the holidays

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I know it is a traditional and cherished time of the year.  

However, this year has to be different. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and it’s not getting better. Cases are going up. Hospitalizations are going up. More people are dying.

The colder weather has driven people indoors, and that is where we know cases are spreading. The cases are not spreading in the schools or in the hospitals; the cases are spreading through small gatherings and social events. As we tire of COVID-19 impacting our lives and our families, the virus does not tire, and it continues its devastation in Idaho and the United States. In the last two days, we recorded 35 COVID-related deaths in Idaho. That is unacceptable and heartbreaking. It is what keeps me up at night.

Keeping six feet of physical space and wearing a mask is not a political issue, it is something we can all do. It is a minor inconvenience. A small sacrifice. Please wear your mask and physically distance. Wear it for your parents and grandparents. Wear it for your friends. Wear it for our nurses and healthcare workers. Wear it and show your fellow Idahoans that you care about them, and that you respect their right to a safe and healthy Idaho.

Finally, we know that the safest way to celebrate the holidays is with people who live with you. If you expand your guest list, the risk of spreading COVID-19 and infecting others goes up. If other family members or grandparents are joining you, please mask up and keep 6 feet apart. That’s hard to hear, I know, but it will help you keep your family members safe. I know I do not want to be the reason that my mother or my in-laws get COVID-19. I am sure you feel the same way about your family.

As always, please remember to:

  • Keep at least six feet between you and others who don’t live with you
  • Wear face coverings (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus, and do not know it, from transmitting it to others)
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Wash your hands often
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly

Open Enrollment Reminder

Open enrollment for 2021 health insurance ends on Dec. 15, 2020. Every county in Idaho has at least three medical carriers to choose from and most have five. Visit www.YourHealthIdaho.org to shop and compare plans side-by-side. Your Health Idaho is the only place where Idahoans can access the Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC) to help lower the cost of coverage. APTC acts like an instant discount, reducing the out-of-pocket cost for monthly premiums. Eligibility for APTC is determined by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Learn more at idalink.idaho.gov.

Please stay safe out there. #MaskUpIdaho #MaskUpForTheHolidays #StaySafeStayHealthy #ONEIdaho #SmallSacrifices

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