An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A time to celebrate

I want to publicly congratulate Lori Wolff on her new appointment by Gov. Brad Little to be the administrator for the Idaho Division of Human Resources. Lori is currently a deputy director in the Department of Health and Welfare. She has had several very important roles at DHW since she started with the department 18 years ago. We can point to many accomplishments for the people of Idaho that are linked directly back to her vision, guidance, and work, but I’ll highlight just one specifically.

The eligibility process – where someone in crisis must prove income and other requirements for certain benefit programs – historically had been arduous in Idaho and it still is in many states. Because of Lori’s leadership, persistence, expertise, and guidance, Idaho has an eligibility process that is so efficient that people who walk into a DHW office lobby with a need for assistance can often walk back out those doors the same day with a decision and access to those benefits. If a decision cannot be reached the same day, it’s almost always within two days.

The state of Idaho is one of only a few states that streamlines the eligibility process for programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, TANF, and others, so there is no need for someone to be evaluated multiple times for eligibility for each individual program. They are evaluated once, and then can access those services so they can start working toward self-reliance as quickly as possible. In other states, the wait can be up to 30 days.

We will miss Lori at DHW, but I am sure she will be great in her new role at DHR. I am looking forward to seeing the new ways she will have an impact on helping Idahoans live their best lives.

Time to celebrate, but we’re not out of the woods yet

I continue to be encouraged by the COVID-19 numbers we are seeing on our data dashboards. The number of cases is down, statewide percent positivity is relatively flat at under 5 percent, and state-wide hospitalizations are stable. The vaccines are a good match for the variants of concern we know about, and each day more Idahoans are choosing to be vaccinated.

In addition, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is now available for 12-15 year-olds, Idaho has been able to loosen up a little and move from Stage 3 to Stage 4, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidance for fully vaccinated people that says they can resume activities without wearing a mask that they might have stopped during the pandemic.

As the school year comes to an end, and summer beckons, it’s an exciting time, but it’s also a good time to remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. As the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread, it continues to change and could mutate into a version that is more contagious and more deadly. I encourage you to continue to follow COVID-19 prevention measures when appropriate, and to consider getting vaccinated if you haven’t already done so. Please discuss any concerns you have about the vaccines with your healthcare provider. I hope you’ll choose to get vaccinated – it really is the best way to protect yourself and others and to reclaim your summer.

Myth busting

Myth: Vaccinated people “shed” proteins onto those who are not vaccinated and cause them to have adverse side effects such as infertility and miscarriages.

Fact: This is completely false. Vaccinated people do not shed any proteins or anything else that might cause infertility or miscarriages.

I hope you all have a safe and healthy weekend.

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