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.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Flu vaccine, COVID numbers, and more”

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.

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

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.
Continue reading “Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend Safely and Responsibly: A Reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”

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.

Continue reading “DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Wear a mask in support of Idaho’s economy”

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.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A”

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.

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

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

Idaho Child Support Services: ‘Let’s do the right thing for the family’

IDHW Innovation

The new customer experience

It seems we all know someone who has been involved with child support in one way or another – a close friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a co-worker, or even ourselves. Most of us understand all too well that being involved in a child support case is a delicate situation to navigate. However, in years past, it has been challenging for customers to call in and get the information they need in a timely manner.

On the other side of the process, it has been challenging for Child Support Services (CSS) to provide our customers with the help they need the first time, without transferring them from person to person. So, to better support our customers, CSS employees have made big changes to the way we do our work. We have created a new customer experience to better serve all of our customers, and we are now equipped to provide families with the information they need, when they need it. Continue reading “Idaho Child Support Services: ‘Let’s do the right thing for the family’”

May is Mental Health Month: Will you help decrease stigma?

Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition, which is challenging enough. Add to that the stigma associated with mental illness, and it can cause people to avoid help and treatment. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to talk about it and help put an end to the stigma about mental health issues.

How many people really are dealing with a mental illness?

Generally, 1 in 5 adults have a diagnosable mental illness. That makes mental illness more common than cancer, diabetes, or even heart disease, and yet we hear much more about those diseases than we do about mental health. That’s why this month is so important. About half of the adults in the U.S. will develop a mental illness at some point in their lives. Mental illness is normal in our society. It’s also normal to live a life of recovery.

How do you know if someone needs help? What should we look for?

Symptoms for children and adults can vary, but they can include changes in behavior, feeling sad or depressed for a long time, drug or alcohol abuse, changes in eating or sleeping habits, suicidal thoughts, and excessive anger, hostility, or violence. Mental health conditions often appear for the first time during adolescence, but it can happen at any time in a person’s life. Continue reading “May is Mental Health Month: Will you help decrease stigma?”