From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: An update on improving the Developmental Disabilities Crisis System

Making progress toward Strategic Goal 2: Protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults

As part of the department’s mission to strengthen the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans, we strive to consider what this means for all Idahoans, including those with developmental disabilities (DD).

A specific focus we have is how to best serve people with developmental disabilities who are experiencing a crisis, often due to complex needs that can include mental health or medical needs. When these individuals are in crisis, it is essential that they receive services that are person-centered, trauma-informed, and delivered in the least restrictive environment possible. We believe we can improve the Idaho crisis system that serves Idaho’s adults with DD.

The Developmental Disabilities Crisis System Improvement Project is well under way to establish a long-term system of care by July 1, 2022, for people with developmental disabilities who exhibit severe behaviors. 

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving

These past 20 months have been overwhelmingly difficult due to the impact of the pandemic. Everyone has given up something for the greater good, and we all have worked together to slow the spread of COVID-19.

It’s easy to go down a path of negativity, to focus on the impact of the pandemic, the loss of life, and the stress this has caused all Idahoans.

However, I am cautiously optimistic about the light I see at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 trends are going in the right direction with fewer cases, hospitalizations, and a decrease in percent positivity in most regions of Idaho.

As we approach this season of gratitude, this week dedicated to giving thanks, I am thankful for the healthcare workers, teachers and students, families, business owners, public health officials, and the many others in Idaho who have stood together against this pandemic. You are appreciated.

Finally, during this season of thanks, I would encourage all of you to take time to recharge, spend time with your families, and do those things that bring you joy. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: When will Idaho exit crisis standards of care; encouraging pregnant women to choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine

When will Idaho be able to exit crisis standards of care?

That is a question I receive quite frequently. When Gov. Brad Little and I answered questions through the AARP Town Hall earlier this week, several people asked us about this and shared stories of postponed surgeries and delayed healthcare that caused them frustration and distress. That is not what anyone wants. We all want healthcare availability to return to normal.

The short answer to that question is that Idaho will deactivate crisis standards of care when the surge of COVID-19 patients ends and the number of patients no longer exceeds the healthcare resources available.

Below are a few examples that will let us know we can leave crisis standards of care:

  • Non-clinical or non-traditional spaces or rooms are no longer being used to care for patients in hospital and healthcare systems settings
  • Patients who should be admitted to the hospital are admitted to traditional hospital rooms, and are no longer being kept for long periods in emergency rooms
  • Instead of large hospitals transferring patients to small hospitals, we can return to normal where small hospitals can transfer critical care patients to large hospitals as needed
  • At least some postponed, less critical surgeries can continue (we are starting to see this happen in some hospitals in Idaho)
  • Staff-to-patient ratios can return to normal
  • The trend of new cases and hospitalizations continues to decline

When the situation changes in Idaho, crisis standards of care will be deactivated, and the public will be informed immediately.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: The facts about breakthrough cases – they are a normal part of all vaccines and are not evidence that vaccines do not work

The COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool against the pandemic. However, no vaccine for any disease is 100 percent effective at preventing illness. At DHW, we track cases among Idahoans who have contracted COVID-19 after they are fully vaccinated (i.e. breakthrough cases). Breakthrough cases are expected, but they do not mean the vaccine is ineffective.

Let’s look at the data. One way is to look at the total number of Idaho COVID-19 cases in 2021 and see how many of those are breakthrough cases. In Idaho, there have been 142,655 cases of COVID-19 reported during 2021, of which 13,285 have been breakthrough cases. That means that 9.3 percent of all cases in 2021 have been breakthrough cases. However, looking at the data this way can sometimes be distorted by the number of people vaccinated vs. the number of people not fully vaccinated.

A better way to look at the data is to look at the number of breakthrough cases among those who are fully vaccinated. This is a better measure since it tells you directly, if you get vaccinated, how likely you are to get a breakthrough case. 

In Idaho, there are 826,587 people who are fully vaccinated as of Oct 27, 2021, of which 13,285 have experienced a breakthrough case. That means 1.6 percent of fully vaccinated people have experienced a breakthrough case. Or said differently, 98.4 percent of fully vaccinated people haven’t experienced a breakthrough case.  I don’t know about you, but I will take those odds any day of the week.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Correcting misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines; and a reminder to take our COVID-19 impact survey

Are there any deaths in Idaho that have been caused by the COVID-19 vaccine?

That is a question we are getting a lot. Across social media and other communication channels, misinformation is being shared that connects the COVID-19 vaccine to deaths in Idaho. This is simply not true.

In Idaho, no death certificate has identified the COVID-19 vaccine as the underlying cause of death in 2020 and 2021. The “underlying cause of death” means the actual event or disease that caused the death. 

We have had six deaths in people ranging from 69 to 86 years of age, for whom the death certificates mentioned the COVID-19 vaccine. All of those death certificates identified other underlying causes of death such as cancer and heart disease. Two listed the vaccine as a potential complication. The others just noted the person had received a COVID-19 vaccine.

So, what about deaths caused by vaccination reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)?

As you likely know, VAERS is an open system where anyone can report information. Information listed there is not confirmed on that site – it is a repository to collect information that is analyzed for serious events and trends that will be followed-up on as needed.

Serious events in VAERS, such as deaths that reportedly occurred after the COVID-19 vaccine, are investigated. The results of those investigations in Idaho have found other causes explaining the death, including cancer and heart disease. Which brings me back to the point made above – the COVID-19 vaccine has not been identified as the underlying cause of death on any Idaho death certificates.

DHW recently did a blog about VAERS and you can read it at: https://dhwblog.com/2021/10/05/covid-19-qa-vaccine-information-on-vaers-cancer-and-efficacy/

CDC guidance on VAERS is located at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vaers.html).

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Trusting and believing in Idahoans

I was born and raised in Idaho. It is where I choose to live and work. I enjoy the beautiful weather and breathtaking scenery of my home state, and I trust the people and professionals who live here. I am, and always will be, a proud Idahoan. We are extremely fortunate to live in such an amazing place.

As an Idahoan, I think of myself as independent. But the reality is that I depend on others almost every day. Most of us do this without even thinking about it. Our lives are intertwined in many ways. We rely on others to build the roads we drive on, deliver goods to the stores we shop in, and help us when we need to buy a car or a home. We, ultimately, need each other.

We all offer and seek expertise and support in our daily lives. When a pipe breaks in my home, I look to an expert, a plumber, to assess and fix the issue. I will trust the plumber because this is something I do not know how to do myself. I don’t understand the intricacies of the plumbing system in my home, and I need an expert. I trust the plumber because this person has spent many hours and years perfecting his craft.

That’s just one example. I seek experts almost every day. When I have a problem with my car, I reach out to my son, who is a master certified car technician, for help. When our dogs become ill, we have a trusted veterinarian we visit. When my children headed to college, I trusted (and still trust) the teachers and educators to prepare them for their careers.

And, when I am ill, I trust my doctor to make sure I get the most effective advice and treatment to get me back on my feet.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: COVID-19 myths and misinformation: Setting the record straight

The misinformation and disinformation available on social media and other communication channels shows no sign of slowing down. At the Department of Health and Welfare, it is our responsibility and obligation to share accurate and timely information with all Idahoans. It is important to us that you have a place to turn to and a source for truth.

There is still much to learn about the coronavirus and COVID-19. New information from peer-reviewed studies accepted by the scientific community becomes available all the time. This is information from the experts that we can all trust. We are committed to sharing what we know now and will continue to share new information as it becomes available. Below is some of the false and misleading information we continue to see online, and my response to that information, based on discussions and consultations with the experts at DHW.

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FICTION: Vaccines are failing and the vaccinated are spreading the Delta variant of COVID-19.

FACT: In a phone briefing in August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director stated that a small number of vaccinated people who are infected with the Delta variant can have a similar viral load as infected unvaccinated people. A rumor quickly spread that the director said that the COVID-19 vaccines are failing.

The truth is that vaccinated people in Idaho are five times less likely than unvaccinated people to contract Delta, making it much harder for them to spread it to others. The vaccines are not failing – they provide excellent protection against hospitalization and death from COVID-19. But they are not perfect, and it is possible to become infected even after vaccination. However, people who receive the vaccine and do become infected are less likely to have serious illness resulting in hospitalization or death.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Correcting COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation takes all of us

Every day, our public health officials, doctors, nurses, and others are responding to the ongoing pandemic and the surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths in our own state. They are exhausted and disheartened. And, on another front, we face the continued challenge of responding to the overabundance of misinformation and disinformation related to the virus on social media. Much of this information could be harmful.

I want to address information you might see on social media platforms that is patently false and misleading.

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FICTION: The mRNA vaccine alters your DNA.

FACT: No. (Read more about this in my DHW Voice blog from Aug. 27)

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FICTION: Public health officials, doctors, nurses, hospitals (and others in healthcare) get paid to specifically talk about the COVID-19 vaccine and encouraging others to get the vaccine.

FACT: No, this is false.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Idaho is now under Crisis Standards of Care statewide, and our hospitals and healthcare systems need our help

The Department of Health and Welfare announced Thursday that Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) was being implemented statewide. The decision came after St. Luke’s Health System requested that CSC be activated.

The CSC Activation Advisory Committee met late Wednesday afternoon, and the decision was made to activate early Thursday morning. It was a thoughtful, heart-wrenching decision. No one wants this, but this is where we are. Our hospitals and healthcare systems have reached their resource limits. There is simply too much demand for care from people who are sick with COVID-19. There are not enough beds, rooms, staff or other resources for Idahoans who need hospitalization. CSC was the absolute last resort. The situation is dire in Idaho.

Although CSC was activated statewide by the Department of Health and Welfare, the hospitals will implement according to their own policies and available resources. Each hospital will make patient-care decisions based on the current situation at each hospital.

After our announcement early yesterday, the Idaho Hospital Association, St. Luke’s Health System, Saint Alphonsus Health System, Minidoka Memorial Hospital, and Portneuf Medical Center held a press conference in the afternoon.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: The activation of Crisis Standards of Care is a call-to-action for all Idahoans

Because of a surge in COVID-19 patients who need to be in the hospital in North Idaho, Crisis Standards of Care was activated in Idaho on Sept. 6 after a request from Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene. This was a first for Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) activated Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) in accordance with IDAPA 16.02.09 – Crisis Standards of Care For Healthcare Entities in the Panhandle Health District and the North Central Health District (Public Health Districts 1 and 2).

No one takes this step lightly. Not Kootenai Health. Not the hospitals and healthcare organizations in northern Idaho. Not the healthcare workers. And not us. However, the goal is to extend care to as many patients as possible and save as many lives as possible. It means that we have a plan for what to do when there is a limited supply of resources available.

This was something I fervently hoped to avoid, and it was a difficult day for me personally when we activated Crisis Standards of Care.

What should you do? How can you help?

First, I would tell you to be careful. Wear your seatbelt. Take your prescribed medications. This is not the time to engage in any high-risk activity that might land you in the hospital … any hospital. Although we are all focused on North Idaho healthcare facilities right now, all hospitals and healthcare facilities in the state are stretched thin. We need to protect the capacity they have for our fellow Idahoans who need immediate care or have COVID-19 that requires hospitalization. 

COVID-19 case counts continue to rise in Idaho, and 91.6 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations from May 15 – Sept. 4, 2021, were not fully vaccinated. Please choose to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public places, and stay home when you are sick. The best defense we have against COVID-19 is the vaccine, and it is safe and effective. You can read all about COVID-19 vaccine safety and monitoring on the Centers for Disease and Prevention website.

Continue reading From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: The activation of Crisis Standards of Care is a call-to-action for all Idahoans