Contact tracing in Idaho is important to stopping the spread of COVID-19

If someone you know or had spent some time with recently tested positive for COVID-19, wouldn’t you want to know about that?

Connecting with individuals who may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is a critical piece of Idaho’s plan to safely reopen and contain the spread of disease. As more people are tested, more disease will be discovered, and the spread of the disease will need to be managed and contained in safe, responsible ways. This process is called contact tracing.

Epidemiologists in Idaho’s seven local public heath districts have been organizing and leading the effort to notify people of their possible exposure to COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak. This is a process public health is familiar with and has used to contain communicable diseases for decades.

Here’s how it works.

When someone is diagnosed with certain infectious diseases that are reportable under state law, laboratories and healthcare providers report basic information, such as name and birthdate, of the diagnosed person (known as the “index case”) to the local and/or state public health agency.

Continue reading “Contact tracing in Idaho is important to stopping the spread of COVID-19”

DHW Director Jeppesen: Idaho Enters Stage 3 of Gov. Little’s Rebound Plan on May 30

Yesterday, Gov. Brad Little announced that Idaho has met the criteria that allows the state to move to Stage 3 of the reopening of Idaho. Beginning Saturday, May 30:

  • Bars can open their doors, as long as protocols to protect workers and the public are followed.
  • Movie theaters can open in Stage 3 instead of Stage 4, as long as protocols are followed.
  • Gatherings of up to 50 people can occur, where appropriate physical distancing and precautionary measures are observed.
  • Only out-of-state travelers from areas of high spread should quarantine for 14 days after entering Idaho.

As Gov. Little said at his press conference Thursday, the health of Idahoans and Idaho’s economic rebound are not mutually exclusive – they are interconnected. Because of this, I am encouraging Idahoans to continue following recommended precautions:

  • Keep at least six feet between you and others in public
  • Wear face coverings in public places (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus, and do not know it, from transmitting it to others)
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Wash your hands often
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly

One of the strengths of Idahoans is our ability to rise to any occasion. When we are asked to follow guidelines to protect our neighbors and friends, we do. Our ability to navigate this pandemic is directly related to our ability to remain flexible in how we live and how we engage with others. Almost weekly, Idahoans have adapted to new ways of living and working. I appreciate and respect those efforts.

Continue reading “DHW Director Jeppesen: Idaho Enters Stage 3 of Gov. Little’s Rebound Plan on May 30”

Idaho COVID-19: ‘We expect there to be bumps and blips in the data’

From very early in the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Brad Little and Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) Director Dave Jeppesen have attributed the decisions they are making about how to respond to the pandemic in Idaho to the latest scientific evidence available.

That scientific evidence is provided through the expertise of the public health staff at the department and at the local public health districts, but also largely from the data being generated from the outbreak and posted at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/.

Epidemiologic data are collected from multiple sources, including people, clinics, labs, and hospitals. The completeness and timeliness of the information can vary drastically, depending on how the data are reported and who is reporting it.

Although Idaho is ahead of a lot of other states in our ability to accept electronic data from laboratories and clinical partners, it is not unusual for those records to have missing information. Data received from clinical and laboratory partners are considered preliminary. Information is verified during case investigations, which are often conducted over several days by epidemiologists, and information is gathered from healthcare providers and patients to complete the investigation. Continue reading “Idaho COVID-19: ‘We expect there to be bumps and blips in the data’”

The Rebound Idaho Plan Depends on all Idahoans: An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Each Of Us Can Keep Idaho Moving Forward

I know, because I have heard from many of you these past few weeks, that you are worried about “one step forward, two steps back.” No one wants Idaho to have go backwards; we all want to get our economy moving and help Idahoans get back to work.

Fortunately, the staged reopening of Idaho depends on the people I trust the most, Idahoans. I would encourage all of us to continue to:

  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Wear a cloth face covering in public (this helps protect others)
  • Keep six feet between you and others
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly
  • Stay home if you are ill

I can’t stress enough how important it is for us all to continue to follow recommended precautions to make sure we do not see a spike in COVID-19 cases. It really is up to all of us to keep our families, friends, and neighbors safe from the spread of this virus which will keep Idaho businesses open and thriving. Thank you for doing your part to help Idaho rebound. Continue reading “The Rebound Idaho Plan Depends on all Idahoans: An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”

Guidelines for Opening Up Idaho: DHW Director Dave Jeppesen outlines the transition from response to rebound

Gov. Brad Little unveiled his Path to Prosperity, Guidelines for Opening Up Idaho, at a press conference yesterday. The document outlines a staged approach to getting our economy moving and getting Idahoans back to work.

There is nothing more important to those of us serving the people of Idaho than making sure Idahoans are safe and healthy, as well as returning Idaho to the symbol of prosperity it was before the COVID-19 crisis.

There are certain criteria that must be met to advance through the stages to re-start our economy. When that criteria is met, the economy will be opened in stages (every two weeks).

There is a new website, rebound.idaho.gov, that provides all the details for businesses as Idaho opens up for business. To help the Governor’s staff and the Governor’s Coronavirus Working Group make decisions, the Gov. Little has created the Governor’s Economic Rebound Advisory Committee, led by Darrel Anderson from Idaho Power. The Advisory Committee is responsible for providing recommendations to Gov. Little in support of the state’s rebound from the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus. You can keep up with changes and recommendations on the website. Continue reading “Guidelines for Opening Up Idaho: DHW Director Dave Jeppesen outlines the transition from response to rebound”

DHW Director Dave Jeppesen encourages Idahoans to stay strong and safe as we continue to slow the spread of COVID-19

Stay-Home Order Update

On Wednesday, April 15, Gov. Brad Little extended the Stay-Home Order to April 30 (with some exceptions outlined below). Thankfully, the mitigation has been working, and Idaho is seeing a flattening of the curve. This is because the people of Idaho have followed recommended precautions and committed to the state’s request to “stay home and stay safe.”

What do the next two weeks look like as we continue the Stay-Home Order? The people of Idaho will continue to telework if possible, to stay home unless they need essential items, and practice all recommended hygiene precautions.

What about travel? The data tells us that travel is the most commonly known source of COVID-19 infections in Idaho. Because we know this, there are some new guidelines in place:

  • If you are entering the state from another location, you are required to self-isolate for 14 days. This does not apply to those who are performing essential tasks or if your job requires you to live in one state and work in another.
  • And, if someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, we are asking that they do not enter the state, unless they are in our state for medical care or are a resident of Idaho.

What about non-essential businesses? From here through April 30, if a business can operate with curbside, drive-through, mailed, or delivery services, they may open as long as they maintain social distancing for both customers and employees, including prohibiting any congregation of customers or employees in or around the place of business. Continue reading “DHW Director Dave Jeppesen encourages Idahoans to stay strong and safe as we continue to slow the spread of COVID-19”

COVID-19: A message from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (DHW) mission is to promote and protect the health and safety of all Idahoans. I have had the privilege of being the director of DHW since January 2019. There’s no other job I would rather have and no place that I would rather be than serving the people of my home state.

I was born in Burley, Idaho, and I grew up in Ammon, a suburb of Idaho Falls. I went to college at Idaho State University in Pocatello. My wife and I, and our four children, have lived in the Treasure Valley for the past 10 years.

While these troubling times have changed our world, they have also brought out the best in all of us. The people of Idaho have showed heart by practicing social distancing and staying home when asked to help protect our most vulnerable residents. We have banded together to slow the spread of COVID-19, which makes me proud to be an Idahoan.

I want to personally thank the frontline of this battle: healthcare workers, grocery store employees, truck drivers, first responders, mail carriers, delivery personnel, and everyone else who is making sure Idahoans have essential items so there is some normalcy in our daily lives. Continue reading “COVID-19: A message from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”

My Life, My Quit is a program specifically for teens to help them quit nicotine

MyLifeMyQuit

Idaho teens who want to quit tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and vapes, now have a program specifically made for them and to help them on their quit journey. It’s called My Life, My Quit, and it launched for Idaho teens in December.

Is this the first program to help teens quit tobacco in Idaho?

It is – in fact, there aren’t many resources in the nation that are available specifically for teens if they want to quit tobacco. We have come to realize that teens have a very different quit journey than adults do. In Idaho, nearly half of all high school students have used e-cigarettes at least once, and there has been a surge in tobacco violations in schools across the state. We want to give teens the tools they need to help them make healthy choices. Continue reading “My Life, My Quit is a program specifically for teens to help them quit nicotine”

What should Idahoans know about the 2019 novel coronavirus?

The national and international situation with the novel coronavirus is rapidly evolving, with the number of cases and deaths changing daily. Public Health officials around the world are working around the clock to understand this new respiratory virus so they can contain it and keep more people from getting infected.

How high is the possibility of people in Idaho getting sick with this virus?

The general risk here in Idaho is fairly low at this point, but public health officials want people to be aware so they can take appropriate precautions. We’re asking you to follow steps you are probably already taking for flu – stay home if you’re sick, avoid sick people, and cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue (not your hands). Wash your hands frequently, especially after you have been in the public and touched door handles, stair railings, money, grocery carts, elevator buttons, and other items that lots of other people may also have touched. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China.

If you think you’ve been exposed, should you go to a clinic or doctor’s office?

If you or someone you know has been in one of the affected areas, believe you may have been exposed to someone who was sick and develop symptoms, call your medical provider to determine next steps. Don’t just head to the clinic or doctor’s office because you risk infecting more people in those settings. Continue reading “What should Idahoans know about the 2019 novel coronavirus?”

It’s American Heart Month. Do you know your heart health?

It’s probably no coincidence that February is American Heart Month. It’s a good time for conversations about matters of the heart, and it’s a great time to talk to your healthcare provider about your blood pressure and cholesterol so you can figure out if you are at risk for heart disease. Nationally, heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults.

Heart disease, as we all know, can lead to a heart attack. Can you remind us about the symptoms of a heart attack?

Not everyone who has a heart attack will have all of these signs. In fact, men and women often have different symptoms. The most common signs of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, pain or discomfort in the upper body, trouble breathing, feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting, stomach ache or heartburn, feeling light-headed or unusually tired, and breaking out in a cold sweat.

If you have any of these symptoms and think you might be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

How can symptoms be different for women?

Just like men, the most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But it’s important to note that women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Women may instead experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in their lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure, or extreme fatigue. Continue reading “It’s American Heart Month. Do you know your heart health?”