From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: I urge you to choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine as the number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise

Every single COVID-19 indicator in Idaho is heading in the wrong direction.

  • The number of cases has started to rise.
  • The statewide seven-day moving average of cases per 100,000 has risen from a low of 3.4 on July 5 to 10.1 on July 22.
  • COVID-19 testing positivity is increasing from a low of 2.8 percent four weeks ago to 5.7 percent this week.
  • The number of long-term care facilities with active COVID cases has risen from a low of 14 a few weeks ago to 24 on July 23.

I am concerned, as many of you are, about what this means as we approach flu season, head back to school, and return to indoor activities.

The best way to protect yourself, your family and friends from COVID-19 is to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As of today, 49.1 percent of those 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. We all need those numbers to go up, and we are counting on the people of Idaho to get vaccinated.

We need more people to choose to get vaccinated. The reality of our current COVID-19 situation is that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting the unvaccinated. And, because children under 12 cannot get vaccinated at this time, the best way to protect them and others who can’t get vaccinated is to make sure those around them are vaccinated.

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A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: 98.7 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations are Idahoans with no record of being fully vaccinated

The facts are clear. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. Currently, the vast majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths among Idahoans occurred among those who were not fully vaccinated when they became ill or tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • From Jan. 1 through July 3, Idaho has had 52,699 cases of COVID-19. 497 (0.9 percent) of those had a record of being fully vaccinated, 52,202 (99.1 percent) had no record of being fully vaccinated.  
  • In that same time period, 2,479 Idahoans were hospitalized for COVID-19. 32 (1.3 percent) had a record of being fully vaccinated. 2,447 (98.7 percent) had no record of being fully vaccinated.
  • Also in that same time period, 433 Idahoans died from COVID-19. Five (1.2 percent) had a record of being fully vaccinated. 428 (98.8) percent) had no record of being fully vaccinated.

Getting the vaccine is a choice, but it is a choice that protects your families and fellow residents … and you. I hope you stay healthy. I want your parents and children to stay healthy. If you are looking for a place to get a vaccine, you can find a mobile clinic near you or a walk-in location or pharmacy near you.

As of today, 51.3 percent of adults aged 18 and older in Idaho have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 76.9 percent of those age 65 and older have received one dose of the vaccine. 

Continue reading “A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: 98.7 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations are Idahoans with no record of being fully vaccinated”

An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Latest research helps us better understand vaccine confidence among Idahoans

At certain times during the COVID-19 pandemic, Idaho conducted research to help us understand current awareness and understanding of COVID-19, safety precautions, and the COVID-19 vaccine. Recently, the state conducted a survey with 300 Idahoans who are currently unvaccinated. We wanted to understand if they will choose, at some point, to get vaccinated and what would be the reason. And, if they are choosing to not get vaccinated, what has led them to that personal decision?

Some highlights of the survey results include:

  • Many people are in the “wait and see how things go” mindset. This means people will decide, in their own time, when they will get the vaccine. They are not against getting vaccinated, but they may be looking for a trigger (travel, school starting, etc.) or time and convenient access to the vaccine because of their busy lifestyles.
  • Many people also indicated they wanted to wait for a year or so to see how things were going.
  • Most unvaccinated people are not concerned about getting COVID-19. They do express some concern about and the possible side effects of the available vaccines. (Note: Some more common side effects are swelling, redness, and pain at the injection site; fever; headache; tiredness; muscle pain; chills; and nausea. Serious side effects are extremely rare.)
  • For those who are likely to get the vaccine, convenience is a major concern. Idahoans also indicated a preference for getting the vaccine at a pharmacy.
  • Those likely to be vaccinated in the future are concerned about time off work for the appointment OR if they experience side effects. (Note: Gov. Brad Little took this concern to heart and has set the example for other leaders in Idaho. He gave state employees four hours of paid leave if they have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine or if they will be doing so in the future).
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DHW’s Living Strategic Plan: A year of progress toward Goal 4 – Strengthening the public’s trust and confidence in the Department of Health and Welfare

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is in the final stages of developing our next five-year strategic plan. As we add the final touches on our vision for the future, we have also taken the opportunity to reflect on the journey behind us. As we review tasks in our final week of the current 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan, we are proud to share our accomplishments, and also some of the lessons we have learned from the challenges we have faced and how those have shaped our next strategic plan.

Today’s post is the final post in a four-part series highlighting the department’s progress toward our mission and the goals we have committed to. In this blog post, I am highlighting some of the key achievements over the past year as part of Strategic Goal 4: Strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the Department of Health and Welfare.

Objective 4.1: Create consistent, respectful experiences for customers throughout their journey by developing and implementing a customer experience strategy that improves the customer’s experiences in key moments. The strategy will be measured by the Customer Effort Score* and improved by 10 percent by July 1, 2024.

  • DHW staff from across divisions worked together to improve the customer experience of families applying for Katie Beckett Program. The purpose of this program is to help children with severe disabilities receive care in their home rather than in a nursing home or other institution. There is now an improved website experience to assist families in the application process, informational materials for providers to help families through the process, and improvements made to processes within DHW and the assessment processes administered by independent contractors.
  • The cross-divisional team working on the Katie Beckett Program customer experience project created and distributed a survey in June 2020 to DHW customers who participated in the level of care assessment to determine the Customer Effort Score (CES). With this survey, they established a baseline CES of 3.11. This baseline was used to show whether the changes made to the application process have been helpful for these Idaho families, with a target of improving the score by 10 percent. When the survey was conducted again in March 2021, the new CES was 3.54, a 13.8​ percent increase from 3.11. Although this increase is great news, we will continue to work to improve this experience for those we serve.
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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working to reduce Idaho’s suicide rate

DHW’s Living Strategic Plan: A year of progress toward Goal 3 – Help Idahoans become as healthy and self-sufficient as possible

As the department continues to develop our next five-year strategic plan, we have also been able to take a few moments to reflect on the journey behind us. We are proud to share the work we have accomplished, despite the challenges over the past year.

Today’s post is the third in a four-part series highlighting the department’s progress toward our mission and the goals we have committed to in our strategic plan. In this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some of the key achievements over the past year as part of “Strategic Goal 3: Help Idahoans become as healthy and self-sufficient as possible.” This includes work on one of our most urgent priorities: reducing suicide in Idaho. We are also engaging in two areas of groundbreaking preventative work that will help Idahoans live their best lives decades down the road.

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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.

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A message from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Help and treatment is available.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a behavioral health crisis such as suicidal thoughts or withdrawal from drugs, behavioral health crisis phone lines and community crisis centers are available to help.

We are focused on behavioral health in Idaho.

If there was ever a time that tested our collective mental health, it has been during this global pandemic. The pandemic has intensified feelings of isolation and anxiety.

Life is hard enough, and COVID-19 didn’t make it any easier. May is the time for us to raise awareness, and Idaho is committed to helping people with mental or behavioral health issues.

In February 2020, Gov. Brad Little, all five Idaho Supreme Court Justices, and the Idaho Legislature signed documents (the Governor’s Executive Order, the Supreme Court Proclamation and Order, and the legislative Concurrent Resolution) establishing and supporting the Idaho Behavioral Health Council, a new three-branch approach to improve care for Idahoans with mental health and substance use disorders.

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A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working together toward a new normal

COVID-19, no matter who you are or where you live, has changed your life. But as the rate of infections begin to slow in Idaho (only about 10 cases per 100,000 residents) and more and more Idahoans choose to get vaccinated each day, the signs of recovery are everywhere. More activities are taking place, vacations are being planned, and more and more people are slowly returning to their pre-pandemic lives.

And, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently eased its guidelines on wearing masks outdoors for fully vaccinated people: no need to cover your face anymore unless you are in a big crowd of people. That’s good news for the more than 500,000 fully vaccinated Idahoans.

The new normal looks and means something different to each of us. For me, it’s time with my grandkids.

In Idaho today, we are still working diligently to help those who choose to get vaccinated to be able to do so at their convenience. Those 16 and older are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. There is no cost to you, and it is now more convenient than ever to get the vaccine. If you choose to get the vaccine, you can do so at your convenience. On the covidvaccine.idaho.gov website, you can:

  • Sign up and have a provider call you
  • Use the vaccine finder and find a walk-in location near you (Walmart, Albertsons, Bi-Mart, Walgreens, Customedica, and Fred Meyer all are accepting walk-in customers)
  • Schedule an appointment at your convenience on line or calling a local provider
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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are building Idaho’s future thanks to Gov. Little’s initiative that awards $4.2M to DHW for building and maintenance projects

As Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) staff work every day to serve Idahoans, the department has a responsibility to provide safe, well-maintained buildings and facilities for customers and staff. At the same time, the department’s senior leaders are responsible for keeping a close eye on how to use available resources efficiently and effectively. Together, the department’s facilities teams and leadership make sure building and maintenance projects are prioritized according to available funding and the overall needs of the department and the customers we serve.

Unfortunately, the reality is that sometimes projects have to wait; sometimes, overdue parking lot repairs and demolitions are postponed so that the department can replace leaky roofs and complete plumbing projects. However, the department recently received building and facilities funding that will enable the facilities team to complete many of the projects that have been on hold.

In Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address on January 11, he announced a new plan called “Building Idaho’s Future.” The plan is intended to put more money back into the pockets of hardworking Idahoans, and to make strategic investments in Idaho’s infrastructure. The funding awards include tax reliefs, permanent tax cuts, small business support, frontline personnel training, and infrastructure investments in transportation, education, broadband, and state facilities – including the infrastructure maintained by DHW.

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An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Are you fully vaccinated?

More than 435,000 Idahoans are now fully vaccinated, and another ~146,000 Idahoans have received one dose of a two-dose series. If you are one of the 16 and older Idahoans who have chosen to get the COVID-19 vaccine, I want to thank you for protecting yourself, your family and friends, and your community.

One quick reminder: Anyone 16 and older is now eligible to get the vaccine, and the vaccine is free to you. There are no out-of-pocket costs.

Many people in Idaho have chosen to get the vaccine as soon as it was available. There are others who are busy with kids or work or other priorities and are waiting to get the vaccine when it is more convenient. In the coming weeks, you will see vaccine providers (such as local pharmacies) working to make the vaccine more easily available to you.

You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose in the two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. If you received the J&J vaccine before the pause, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the shot.

What happens after you are fully vaccinated?

If you have been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with others who are fully vaccinated, and no mask is needed.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

For now, even if you are fully vaccinated, there are some things that have not changed just yet. For example:

  • You should avoid medium or large gatherings.
  • You should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You still need to follow guidance at your workplace.
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