From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Update on the COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho

The COVID-19 vaccine is on the minds of Idahoans, and we appreciate your questions and your feedback.

I want to let the people of Idaho know that we hear you. We read your emails and your social media messages, and we take all of your phone calls to heart. We are grateful that so many of you have chosen to take the vaccine, and that you are ready to do so. Your commitment to participating in this exciting part of the pandemic response does not go unnoticed.

We are committed to doing everything we can to get the vaccines administered as quickly and safely as possible. There was a 67 percent increase in the number of doses administered the week of Jan. 4, and we expect the number of doses administered each week to continue to increase. We are committed to getting all the vaccine that Idaho is allocated shipped to Idaho as soon they become available. The vaccines are sent directly from the manufacturer to those who can administer them. We are committed to doing all we can to support providers so they can do their job of administering the vaccine. And we are committed to communicating with you as openly and as often as possible. These are our promises to you and the vaccine providers in Idaho.

I want to thank Gov. Brad Little for his budget proposal that includes $250 million to finish the fight against COVID-19. We are grateful for his leadership and commitment.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: DHW is committed to full transparency on the COVID-19 vaccine

When it comes to COVID-19 in Idaho, DHW is focused on vaccine delivery and administration and making sure we share everything we know with you. As part of our commitment, we have developed a COVID-19 vaccine page on the coronavirus website, which is updated daily. On the site and page, you can find:

As part of Idaho’s commitment to transparency, DHW is now hosting vaccine media briefings every Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to listen in and/or watch the briefing, while the media representatives have the opportunity to ask questions. The log-in information is available each Monday on the coronavirus website.

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An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Funding for Elmore County; Improving experiences for those we serve; and the COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Idaho

Before 2020, the end of a year would bring up good memories of times shared, reflecting on accomplishments and milestones, and making plans to celebrate the new year with family and friends. It’s probably safe to say, people may feel a little differently about 2020.

Even though this year has tried our souls in every way possible, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Idaho and healthcare workers across the state are now receiving their vaccines. Many people have questions related to the vaccine, and when they might get a vaccine. The best way to keep updated is by visiting the website. There, you can find the following:

And more … the website is robust and contains a lot of information. I encourage you to spend some time on the site when you have questions about our response to the pandemic. Odds are good we have answered your question, or we will when we have the information. We are committed to full transparency when it comes to vaccine distribution, and DHW will share information with you as soon as possible. That’s a promise.

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Crisis standards of care and encouraging personal responsibility: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

An update on DHW’s special board meeting

This morning, the Idaho Board of Health and Welfare met to review and vote on an administrative rule for crisis standards of care. Members considered and approved a new temporary rule that allows for the timely activation of crisis standards of care.

This new chapter outlines the circumstances under which crisis standards of care would be implemented (e.g. pandemic, natural disaster, or an extraordinary event or circumstance that overwhelms Idaho’s usual health and medical capabilities). Crisis standards of care could be implemented if Idaho’s healthcare systems become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. This means that you (or a family member) might not get the normal or standard care needed if you were in an accident or had a healthcare emergency.

None of us want to get to that point. I would ask all of us to choose to support our doctors, nurses, and healthcare systems. So what do we, as Idahoans, need to do to protect Idaho’s healthcare system and our access to it? That’s right – wear a mask, keep 6 feet between you and people who don’t live with you, wash your hands often, and stay home as much as possible, especially if you are sick. If all of us do this, we can avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. 

Gov. Brad Little asks Idahoans to “make the right choice”

As Gov. Brad Little stated at his press conference yesterday, “If Idaho activates the crisis standards of care, you or someone you love could be denied care or given a lower standard of care … If your son or daughter gets in a car accident, there may not be a bed for them. They may have to wait. If your wife has diabetes and develops an infection, there may not be a bed for her. If your husband has a heart attack, there may not be a bed for him.”

I want to echo Gov. Little’s calls for action and for personal responsibility. We are asking all Idahoans to choose to keep small businesses open and our kids in school, and to protect healthcare workers and our economy. I appreciate everyone who is setting the example in their communities by respecting others and wearing a mask and following the recommended precautions.

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COVID-19 vaccine recommendations and a groundbreaking child welfare system: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Today, the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee made a recommendation about which populations should be prioritized for Phases 1a and 1b in Idaho’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. The recommendation will be delivered to Gov. Brad Little, who will make the final decisions.

CVAC is recommending Phase 1a include healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Skilled nurses and those working in assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities are counted as healthcare workers in this phase.

CVAC is recommending the following types of essential workers being prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1b:

  • First responders, including fire, police, protective services and community support personnel
  • Pre-K through 12th grade school staff and teachers and daycare workers
  • Correctional and detention facility staff, except medical staff already in Phase 1a
  • Food processing workers
  • Grocery and convenience store workers
  • Idaho National Guard
  • Other essential workers not already included and unable to telework or social distance at work

Idaho is expecting to receive approximately 13,650 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine by mid-December in its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, and then additional doses in the two weeks after that. Equal numbers of second doses will be shipped a couple of weeks after the first doses for people who received those. It takes about two weeks for the human body to build immunity after a vaccine.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Celebrate Thanksgiving safely and an update on our strategic plan

In the past week, Idaho’s COVID-19 case count was above 1,000 for six out of seven days. On Nov. 17, Idaho recorded 35 deaths, the highest number to date for one day since the beginning of the pandemic. This is heartbreaking. It is unacceptable. We can do better. We have to do better.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it is a cause for concern. Gatherings have shown to be a main source for the spread of new cases. Traditionally, my wife and I host our extended family Thanksgiving dinner. Just last week, I had difficult conversations with my mom and other family members letting them know that we would not be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our home. And I strongly encouraged them to celebrate Thanksgiving with their immediate households. I want to keep my family safe. I want them to be healthy for future holidays, so this is small sacrifice for the greater good.

The best and safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is with only the members of your household. Virtual activities are also completely safe. If you do celebrate in-person with people outside of your household it’s very important to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus.

We know what helps limit the spread of COVID-19: wearing a mask, physical distancing, washing your hands, avoiding social gatherings and large crowds, and staying home when sick. These are the most effective tools we have to fight this virus and protect our families and friends, keep our hospitals operating within their capacity, and protect our small businesses.

Hospitals in Idaho and throughout the United States are getting stretched very thin. Widespread holiday gatherings, especially ones in which the above precautions are not taken, could make a difficult situation much worse. Please be safe this Thanksgiving and do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

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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.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A big thank you to all veterans, a plea for small gatherings, and COVID-19 help for all Idahoans

You may not realize it, but Wednesday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. It’s a very special day that often gets overlooked in the range of holidays throughout the year.

Many of our family, friends, and neighbors serve or have served in the armed forces. I want to thank all veterans for the many sacrifices you’ve made in service to our country. That is a sacred duty, and I am grateful for it.

There are several businesses that offer special benefits and deals to veterans on Nov. 11. See the links below for more information:

Please do your part

The nation and Idaho are seeing some consistently alarming increases in COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations across Idaho. Please do your part to protect yourself and others from the virus that causes COVID-19.

This virus is tricky because it may not cause symptoms for some people but is still very contagious. This is often referred to as asymptomatic spread, which means those who are infected don’t know they are and spread it to others who aren’t as lucky.

This will become even more important as we plan our holiday family gatherings. I’m not naive enough to think we will all stay home and not get together with family and loved ones. It might feel strange and off-putting to wear a mask with your extended family members in a family home. But making that small sacrifice to protect those who are closest to us will protect them, particularly those who are at high risk of severe disease.

There are ways to gather safely during the upcoming holidays, and I implore you to follow the guidelines and wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart as much as possible, wash your hands often, and stay home if you feel sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has several tips for how to gather safely for the holidays, as well as risk factors to consider as you plan your gatherings.

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We must remain diligent in our fight against COVID-19: A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Across the United States — from news organizations, healthcare organizations, and public health departments – the message is clear, we must remain diligent against COVID-19, particularly as cases continue to rise and hospitals fill up. As winter approaches and Americans grow weary of masks and physical distancing, we cannot let up. We must not let our guard down. We must continue to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from this virus.

If we tire of taking preventative measures, then we run the risk of seeing our friends and family unnecessarily exposed. One third of Idahoans have underlying health conditions, which means all of us interact with someone who is at high risk of a severe case of COVID-19 if infected.

I know that it is not always easy to follow the recommended precautions, particularly when we participate in small social gatherings or family get-togethers. This will be especially true as we head into the holidays. But it is precisely those friends and family you protect when you wear a mask, maintain six feet of distance, cover coughs and sneezes, wash your hands often, and stay home when you’re sick.

Thank you for doing your part to combat the spread of COVID-19.

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Slowing the spread of COVID-19 depends on you: A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Gov. Brad Little at his press conference yesterday reminded us all that most of this battle against the spread of COVID-19 is about personal responsibility. We are asking Idahoans to wear a mask. Keep six feet of distance between yourself and others in public places. Wash your hands often. Cover coughs and sneezes. And, stay home if you are sick.

As we watch cases increase in Idaho, and we see the cases increase significantly in those ages 18-29, we have to ask ourselves: Are we doing all we can do to protect our families and communities? We all have to do our part.

Celebrating Halloween safely

As the weather turns colder, many of us may retreat indoors, hoping for safety among family and friends. Unfortunately, that is where we often see cases spreading – through smaller, more intimate gatherings.

And now we are approaching the holidays, a time where we cherish those moments with friends and family. And right around the corner is Halloween. Some Halloween traditions may look different this year to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is suggesting many ways you can both enjoy the holiday while keeping your family safe.. The CDC outlines plenty of ways families can have fun while avoiding being exposed to or spreading the virus.

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