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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Stay vigilant when it comes to COVID-19: A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

As it is for all Idahoans, it’s distressing for us at the Department of Health and Welfare to see COVID-19 case counts rising again. Without a vaccine or a proven therapeutic treatment, the answer to slow the spread of this virus is simple, and I can’t say it enough: Wear a mask, wash your hands often, keep six feet of physical distance between yourself and others, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home if you are sick.

I understand we are all tired of this virus, and anxious to return to a sense of normalcy. I want that, too, but even more importantly, I want the people of Idaho to be safe from this virus. Please don’t let your guard down. Please heed the science, stay vigilant, and follow those guidelines. 

The stress and trauma of COVID-19

According to a JAMA Network study, the number of adults experiencing depression has tripled in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic. There is no question: COVID-19 is a traumatic event for healthcare, public health, and frontline workers, parents and children, our economy, our communities, and our health and safety. And, sadly, there have been more than 200,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States.

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Dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans: A reminder of our mission from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Life in 2020 seems to throw one curveball after another at us. However, our strength and resilience as Idahoans allows us to weather adversity and come out stronger on the other side. We are Idahoans. What I know about Idahoans is that we help our neighbors. We are deeply committed to our families, our communities, and our state.

At DHW, we are committed to respecting the independence of our fellow Idahoans as we help build healthy, safe communities. Our aim is to help us all achieve our best lives.

To show our level of commitment to this goal, we have added a word to our mission statement: independence. We are dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. If you take a few moments to look at the new DHW Strategic Plan, you will see signs of our commitment to promoting independence on every page. Our work as we hold fast to our mission is broken down into four goals:

  • GOAL 1:  Ensure affordable, available healthcare that works
  • GOAL 2:  Protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults
  • GOAL 3:  Help Idahoans become as healthy and self-sufficient as possible
  • GOAL 4:  Strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the Department of Health and Welfare
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Flu shots, COVID-19, and wildfires: A safety reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

As summer slowly turns to fall, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic that has impacted almost 7 million Americans. And, in October, our flu season will begin. Because both COVID-19 and the flu will be circulating in Idaho, the concern is that could overburden our healthcare system.  As if that’s not enough, as you have heard on the news every day, wildfires in Idaho and surrounding states are destroying homes and livelihoods, ravaging our beautiful forest lands, and – heartbreakingly – taking lives.

No question about it; 2020 has tested our limits of hope, courage, and – most of all – patience. We all hope for better days in 2021, but if 2021 is to serve as the light at the end of this tunnel, there are a few things we can do to help usher in a healthy new year.

  1. Get your flu shot. Flu shots are available now at pharmacies, grocery stores, and primary care clinics. Because of the pandemic, this is more important than ever. If you have questions about the flu shot, please reach out to your doctor.
  2. For both the flu and COVID-19, follow recommended precautions (I can’t say this enough): Wash your hands often, keep six feet between yourself and others in public places, wear masks/face coverings in public, and cover coughs and sneezes.
  3. Although we hope the fires are soon under control, the smoke impacts the air quality here in Idaho. You can follow air quality reports through the Idaho Smoke Information Blog. Please protect yourself and your family by following recommendations from DEQ.

Idaho to remain in Stage 4

Gov. Brad Little announced this afternoon that Idaho will remain in Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds plan for another two weeks. He said the metrics are very encouraging, but the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is still too high statewide. This is no time to let our guards down, he stressed. The reason those metrics are mostly headed in the right direction is because of all of you who have decided to follow the recommended guidelines. Please continue to wear a mask, keep 6 feet between you and others, stay home if you feel sick, and wash your hands often.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A Reminder to Get Your Flu Shot and Recognizing Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month

Each year, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) reminds Idahoans to get their flu shots in preparation for the flu season. This year, the stakes are even higher. Even if you normally get your flu shot in October, the time to start thinking about it (and getting it) is now. Flu shots are available at your local pharmacies, supermarkets, and primary care clinics (an appointment is usually not necessary). Please call your primary care physician if you have questions.

Why is the flu shot so important in 2020?

Both the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses affecting your lungs and breathing and can be spread to others. Adding the flu to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could overburden our healthcare system and strain our testing capacity.

Getting your flu shot is a safe, inexpensive way to stay healthy and protect those most vulnerable from the flu, our elderly residents and those with underlying health conditions.

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DHW is here to support the most vulnerable Idaho residents: A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

At the Department of Health and Welfare, our mission is to strengthen the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. As you might guess, the positive impact we have on individuals and their families is ongoing and significant. We help people in crisis: struggling families needing a safe place to raise their children; people in the midst of a physical or mental health crisis; and families who need temporary public assistance to feed themselves and their children. These are just a few examples of how we serve those in need.

Now, add a global, devastating pandemic to the mix. The impact of COVID-19 on the United States is immeasurable. Here, in our home state, Idahoans have lost their jobs, closed the doors to their small businesses, or contracted COVID-19.

Now, what we do and how we do it, is more important than ever to the people of Idaho. We do not take this responsibility lightly. We spend many hours each day developing plans and removing barriers to better serve Idahoans. It’s not easy, but we want to always be there for Idahoans during dark days and difficult times. We want to create paths to healthier futures and more self-reliant Idahoans. Our goal is always to help Idahoans be as independent as possible and live their best lives.

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