COVID-19 Q&A: Idaho’s vaccine distribution plan

Coming up at 10 a.m. Wednesday: Facebook Live with Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program. Send your vaccine distribution questions ahead of time to Communications@dhw.idaho.gov or watch live on Wednesday and type your vaccine distribution questions into the comments. We will answer as many on-topic questions as we can until 10:25, when Sarah has to join another meeting. We’ll consider off-topic questions for future FB Live events. Join us!

Q: When is COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Idaho and how many doses will the state get initially?

A: COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is arriving in Idaho this week, and by the end of the week the state is expecting to have received all or most of our initial allotment of 13,650 doses of the ultra-cold vaccine. The initial shipments are for healthcare workers, and then later this month, residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

Q: Who gets COVID-19 vaccine first?

A: Phase 1a includes healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Skilled nurses and those working in assisted living and intermediate care facilities are counted as healthcare workers in this phase.

More specifically, the initial shipment of vaccine is destined for hospital staff and outpatient clinic staff who provide care for COVID-19 patients. The facilities will determine a schedule for their workers.

The Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (CVAC) has made recommendations on which populations should be prioritized for Phase 1b. The decision will ultimately be made by Gov. Brad Little.

CVAC is recommending that Phase 1b of the vaccination plan include essential workers not included in Phase 1a. CVAC is recommending the following types of essential workers be prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1b in the following order:

  • First responders, including fire, police, protective services and community support personnel.
  • Pre-K-12 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

The list of recommended priority groups can be found on the coronavirus website at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/CVAC-Prioritization-for-HCP-and-Essential-Workers.pdf

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A reminder on to safely celebrate the upcoming holidays and an update on our strategic plan

How are you preparing for the upcoming holidays? If you are like me, you are looking forward to decorating the tree, seeing the light displays in your neighborhood, pumpkin pie, and spending time with family.

I want each of you to enjoy the upcoming season. And even more than that, I want everyone to be safe during their holiday celebrations. I know we all want to spend the holidays with our families. And, I know we also want to keep our loved ones safe and healthy.

What we know today is that most of the new COVID-19 cases in Idaho are coming from smaller gatherings. These gatherings create transmissible moments as families and friends spend time in close proximity to one another.

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions gives numerous tips on how to celebrate safety. I hope you will take time to review them as you plan for the holiday season. And, keep reading my blog for ideas and reminders about the holidays.

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

Finding safe, permanent homes for children who have experienced abuse or neglect is a top priority for the work we do at the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW). Children who have experienced trauma need and deserve permanency in their living situations in order to heal, develop, and thrive. Lack of permanency and stability is detrimental to children’s sense of safety, security, and overall well-being.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Flu vaccine, COVID numbers, and more

Q: Does the flu vaccine make it more likely that people will get COVID-19?

A: The flu vaccine does not make people susceptible to COVID-19. There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.

In fact, getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and the people you spend time with from getting the flu, which is also a serious illness.

Some of the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 are to wear a mask and avoid spending long periods of time indoors with people who don’t live with you.

More information on the flu vaccine and COVID-19 is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Annual art and expression contest celebrates kinship care in Idaho: A message from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

In the midst of what we are collectively experiencing because of the global pandemic, there are those who continue to open their hearts and homes to Idaho children when their parents are unable to do so. These kinship families have my sincerest appreciation. We are very grateful for them.

My Family. My Story. is an annual event that the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) has sponsored for 10 years. It is an art and expression contest that is open to children and youth who have ever been in kinship care in Idaho. Kinship care is when children are cared for by relatives or very close friends of the family when their parents are unable to care for them.

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Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend Safely and Responsibly: A Reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

As we approach this Labor Day weekend, I want to remind all Idahoans to minimize the risk of COVID-19 “transmissible moments” by wearing masks or cloth face coverings, washing your hands often, and keeping a physical distance of six feet when outside your home.

I know that holiday weekends are often a time for family or community gatherings, but I am encouraging you to celebrate safely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our risk for COVID-19 increases at events and in-person gatherings as follows:

  • Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.
  • More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least six feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
  • Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
  • Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.
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DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Wear a mask in support of Idaho’s economy

As you know, Gov. Brad Little announced yesterday that Idaho will remain in Stage 4 of the reopening plan for at least two more weeks. Like you, I am troubled by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Idaho. I am asking you, the Idahoans who love this state as much as I do, to help us slow the spread.

What is one easy thing that you can do? Wear a mask or cloth face covering when you are in public places. This is critical to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing a mask or cloth face covering is not only a sign of mutual respect to your friends, neighbors, and community, but there is abundant evidence that masks or cloth face coverings help prevent the virus from spreading. It also shows your commitment to local businesses and Idaho’s economy. It’s such a simple thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that masks or cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Q&A

In our quest to help separate COVID-19 facts from fiction, we’re continuing to answer questions we have received through DHW’s social media accounts, in emails, and in our daily lives as we all live with the coronavirus in our communities. 

It’s important to remember that the virus that causes COVID-19 is brand new to humans, and more is being learned about it every day. All guidance is based on what public health currently knows about the coronavirus. As more is learned, guidance and knowledge could change, and we will do our best to keep you informed.  

In the meantime, it’s critical to remember to wear a mask or cloth face covering and stay six feet apart in public, stay home if you feel sick, and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

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Idaho remains in Stage 4 and a new framework is available for schools to open in the fall: Reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

I hope you had a chance to watch Gov. Brad Little’s press conference yesterday. He shared the Idaho Back to School Framework 2020, which outlines:

  • Expectations
  • Support for local governance and decision making
  • Guidance and best practices on the key operational components for safe reopening of schools in the fall

Although Gov. Little  expects public schools to open in the fall, decisions will be made locally by the school districts and local public health districts. Plus, most districts will operationalize “blended learning” for students. Blended learning is the combination of technology-based instruction with traditional, teacher-to-student lessons.

I want to echo the Governor’s appreciation of the school districts, teachers, and parents as they continue to face extraordinary challenges as they navigate a new normal for education In Idaho.

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Gov. Brad Little Unveils Testing Strategy for Idaho: An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Expanded Testing Designed to Inform Mitigation Efforts

Today, at Gov. Brad Little’s press conference, he outlined Idaho’s new testing strategy developed by the COVID-19 Testing Task Force. The testing strategy recommends expansion of testing and contact tracing and outlines how Idaho will prioritize testing across the state. It is important to note that the testing strategy is one part of an integrated response to the pandemic mitigation efforts in Idaho. The Division of Public Health will now develop an action plan to implement the testing strategy.

Just a few weeks ago, because of limited testing capacity, epidemiologists and others across the United States were recommending testing only for those who were symptomatic. Today, testing capacity has increased, and the Testing Task Force plan recommends prioritized expansion of testing across Idaho. The plan will be updated periodically.

Have a Safe and Healthy Memorial Day Weekend

As we enter into this Memorial Day weekend, I encourage the residents of Idaho to do those things that give you a sense of normalcy in your lives. I hope you can enjoy biking or hiking in the mountains of Idaho, walking in your neighborhood, or having cookouts and small family gatherings.

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News Release: DHW reports first flu-related deaths

NEWS RELEASE–FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE          Date: Dec. 23, 2019

Contact:  Lori Gilbert
Communications Specialist
(208) 334-0668

DHW reports first flu-related deaths this season

The first two deaths among Idaho residents this influenza season have been reported to the Department of Health and Welfare. Two women in northern Idaho, both over the age of 70 years, died from flu-related causes.

“The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is reminding residents that flu can be serious,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, the Idaho Influenza Surveillance Coordinator. “Although these deaths occurred in northern Idaho, influenza activity is on the rise statewide. One important prevention measure for Idahoans is to get an annual flu shot.”

Local public health officials in Idaho are also responding to outbreaks of influenza among residents of assisted-living and long-term care facilities in several communities throughout the state. Influenza can spread rapidly in residential facilities. It’s important that the people who live there, their caregivers, staff, and visitors are all vaccinated and follow good hand-washing and sanitation practices to prevent spreading flu.

Influenza is contagious, causing respiratory illness in 5 to 20 percent of the population every year. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, or fatigue. Although most people who get influenza recover after a few days, some people may develop serious complications. The good news is that flu can be prevented.

Everyone over six months of age should get an annual influenza vaccine. Getting the flu shot every year is especially important for people at higher risk for serious flu-related complications including people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and anyone 65 years of age or older. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to determine which flu vaccine is best for you.

During the four previous seasons in Idaho (2014/15 through 2018/19) an average of 64 influenza-related deaths occurred, with most deaths occurring among people over 70 years of age.

Dr. Tengelsen advises people to take these precautions to limit the spread of flu:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth until you have washed your hands.
  • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active to stay healthy.
  • Avoid people who appear sick.
  • Stay home from work or school when sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.

 

For information about influenza and how to stay healthy, please visit www.cdc.gov/flu or http://flu.idaho.gov