All Idahoans who choose to get the COVID-19 vaccination will be able to do so: A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Many of the questions we receive from the public are related to when and where they can get a COVID-19 vaccination. Because of the limited supply of the vaccine at this time, some people have not been able to get an appointment right away. I want to reassure everyone that anyone who wants to get the COVID-19 vaccination will be able to do so. We are committed to this, but it will take time because of the limited supply we are receiving here in Idaho.

Supply and demand

On Monday, Feb. 1, Idahoans 65 and older became eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccination, and it quickly became obvious that the demand is far greater than the supply. To put it in perspective, there are roughly 265,000 people in Idaho who are 65 and older, and Idaho is receiving about 25,000 doses a week. It will take several months to get through this group, so we are asking for patience. Everyone who chooses to get the vaccine will be able to do so, but the appointments will be spread out during the coming months.

You can find more information on when and where to get vaccinated on a new page on the DHW website. This page outlines who can get vaccinated (by age and job classification), where to go to find a provider and schedule an appointment (when there are appointments available), and what to expect at your appointment.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We’re advancing telehealth for Idahoans

  • 32,059%: Increase in telehealth behavioral health visits between March and July 2020, compared to March – July 2019
  • 12,681%: Increase in telehealth medical visits between March and July 2020, compared to March – July 2019

As Idahoans, we share a sense of pride that we live in such a beautiful state with rich and varied recreational, professional, and cultural opportunities. However, being a large mostly rural state not only brings many great benefits, it also brings a few challenges.

One challenge we face is access to affordable, quality healthcare. Idaho’s rapid population growth in urban areas, a shortage of healthcare professionals, and the difficulty of access to frontier areas create widespread barriers to healthcare access. To address these challenges, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) and our partners formed a Telehealth Task Force. The Task Force successfully developed recommendations to advance telehealth in Idaho, to ensure that Idahoans have convenient access to quality care, no matter where they live. These findings and recommendations are part of an effort to develop a more coordinated, broad approach to telehealth adoption.

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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: New grants available to COVID-19 vaccine provider organizations; Busting myths about vaccines

Gov. Brad Little announced on Tuesday that new COVID-19 Vaccine Capacity, Safety, and Reporting Grants are available and can be used by enrolled vaccine provider organizations to increase staffing to administer shots, purchase needed equipment and supplies, and improve vaccine access for hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations. The amount each enrolled healthcare vaccine provider will receive is based on the number of doses they administer.

The mass vaccination of millions of people throughout the United States is unprecedented. It takes coordination of massive and disparate systems that starts with the manufacturing of the vaccine and ends with a shot in the arm. In addition, the ability of clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and employers to ramp up to meet the demand takes the financial and logistical support of the federal and state government. In Idaho, we want to help our enrolled provider organizations hire medical staff, stand up clinics, and then schedule first and second doses for hundreds of thousands of Idahoans.

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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 coronavirus.idaho.gov 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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