A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working together toward a new normal

COVID-19, no matter who you are or where you live, has changed your life. But as the rate of infections begin to slow in Idaho (only about 10 cases per 100,000 residents) and more and more Idahoans choose to get vaccinated each day, the signs of recovery are everywhere. More activities are taking place, vacations are being planned, and more and more people are slowly returning to their pre-pandemic lives.

And, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently eased its guidelines on wearing masks outdoors for fully vaccinated people: no need to cover your face anymore unless you are in a big crowd of people. That’s good news for the more than 500,000 fully vaccinated Idahoans.

The new normal looks and means something different to each of us. For me, it’s time with my grandkids.

In Idaho today, we are still working diligently to help those who choose to get vaccinated to be able to do so at their convenience. Those 16 and older are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. There is no cost to you, and it is now more convenient than ever to get the vaccine. If you choose to get the vaccine, you can do so at your convenience. On the covidvaccine.idaho.gov website, you can:

  • Sign up and have a provider call you
  • Use the vaccine finder and find a walk-in location near you (Walmart, Albertsons, Bi-Mart, Walgreens, Customedica, and Fred Meyer all are accepting walk-in customers)
  • Schedule an appointment at your convenience on line or calling a local provider
Continue reading “A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working together toward a new normal”

COVID-Q&A: Grant funding for mobile clinics is now available

In an effort to provide vaccination opportunities to everyone 16 and older where they live, work, and play, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) announced a new funding opportunity last week to establish and operate mobile, off-site, walk-in, and special COVID-19 vaccination clinics in underserved communities, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities, among others.

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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are building Idaho’s future thanks to Gov. Little’s initiative that awards $4.2M to DHW for building and maintenance projects

As Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) staff work every day to serve Idahoans, the department has a responsibility to provide safe, well-maintained buildings and facilities for customers and staff. At the same time, the department’s senior leaders are responsible for keeping a close eye on how to use available resources efficiently and effectively. Together, the department’s facilities teams and leadership make sure building and maintenance projects are prioritized according to available funding and the overall needs of the department and the customers we serve.

Unfortunately, the reality is that sometimes projects have to wait; sometimes, overdue parking lot repairs and demolitions are postponed so that the department can replace leaky roofs and complete plumbing projects. However, the department recently received building and facilities funding that will enable the facilities team to complete many of the projects that have been on hold.

In Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address on January 11, he announced a new plan called “Building Idaho’s Future.” The plan is intended to put more money back into the pockets of hardworking Idahoans, and to make strategic investments in Idaho’s infrastructure. The funding awards include tax reliefs, permanent tax cuts, small business support, frontline personnel training, and infrastructure investments in transportation, education, broadband, and state facilities – including the infrastructure maintained by DHW.

Continue reading “An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are building Idaho’s future thanks to Gov. Little’s initiative that awards $4.2M to DHW for building and maintenance projects”

COVID-19 Q&A: COVID-19 and long-term-care facilities


Q: When will the state allow long-term care facilities to open up visitation?

A:  There are currently no state regulations limiting visitation in long-term care facilities. Nursing homes must follow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) visitation guidance for nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. DHW has published similar visitation guidance and best practices for assisted living and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICFs/IID) under the Long-Term-Care tab at coronavirus.idaho.gov

Actual visitation policies are set by each facility and may vary, depending on the circumstances. If a facility is not currently having an outbreak of COVID-19, then it will have more relaxed visitation policies in place. If there are cases of COVID-19 in a facility, then we would expect that facility to have restrictions in place until the outbreak has been closed. That could take at least 28 days, because an outbreak in a long-term care facility is considered resolved after 28 days without any new cases of COVID-19.  

If you have questions about visitation policies, you should direct them to the facility itself.

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An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Are you fully vaccinated?

More than 435,000 Idahoans are now fully vaccinated, and another ~146,000 Idahoans have received one dose of a two-dose series. If you are one of the 16 and older Idahoans who have chosen to get the COVID-19 vaccine, I want to thank you for protecting yourself, your family and friends, and your community.

One quick reminder: Anyone 16 and older is now eligible to get the vaccine, and the vaccine is free to you. There are no out-of-pocket costs.

Many people in Idaho have chosen to get the vaccine as soon as it was available. There are others who are busy with kids or work or other priorities and are waiting to get the vaccine when it is more convenient. In the coming weeks, you will see vaccine providers (such as local pharmacies) working to make the vaccine more easily available to you.

You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose in the two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. If you received the J&J vaccine before the pause, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the shot.

What happens after you are fully vaccinated?

If you have been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with others who are fully vaccinated, and no mask is needed.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

For now, even if you are fully vaccinated, there are some things that have not changed just yet. For example:

  • You should avoid medium or large gatherings.
  • You should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You still need to follow guidance at your workplace.
Continue reading “An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Are you fully vaccinated?”

COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine safety

Q: Can COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility in men and women?

A: There is no scientific evidence to suggest the vaccine causes infertility. In addition, infertility is not known to occur from natural COVID-19 infection, further indicating that immune responses to the virus, whether induced by infection or a vaccine, are not a cause of infertility.

Q: How did COVID-19 vaccines get approved so quickly? Are they safe?

A: Production of the COVID-19 vaccines began sooner than is typical. Normally, production starts after a pharmaceutical company completes the development stage for a vaccine, which includes rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness. Every vaccine goes through a series of reviews and approvals by the FDA and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), among others. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government invested taxpayer dollars to encourage pharmaceutical companies to start production before the development stage completed.

The vaccines are still going through the same rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness, review, and approval process. However, because pharmaceutical companies began manufacturing the vaccine during the clinical trials, they were able to make the vaccines available as soon as they were given an emergency use authorization.

By all accounts, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective. The recent recommendation for a pause on the Johnson &Johnson vaccine illustrates how seriously Idaho and the rest of the nation takes vaccine safety. Ultimately, vaccines  are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19.

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An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The news this week that there have been six reported cases of a rare and severe blood clot in women between the ages of 18 and 48 who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not the kind of news we welcome, but I am reassured, as I hope you are, that recommending a pause in the use of the vaccine was the right thing to do and helps show that we all take vaccine safety very seriously.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) issued a press release recommending that Idaho vaccine providers not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until more information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This recommendation was made after receiving information that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recommended a pause in the use of that vaccine and are reviewing the data for the six reported cases. All 50 states have made this same recommendation.

On Wednesday, April 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met and did not put forth any formal recommendations during this meeting. Voting members are waiting for additional data for a more robust risk-benefit analysis, and that should be available to them next week. Additional discussion may address restrictions for vaccine use in highest risk populations, possibly by age or gender.

Although this is not news we were expecting, this is exactly what is supposed to happen with any new vaccine or drug or protocol: if there is an unexpected adverse reaction, there is a pause to review the data and then refine recommendations. The safety system in the United States works. The FDA and the CDC made the right decision to temporarily halt the use of this vaccine.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson vaccine and severe adverse effects

Q: Why are Idaho and the nation calling for a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

A: The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is recommending that Idaho vaccine providers not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until more information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This recommendation was made after the department received information that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reviewing data for six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot, combined with low platelet counts, in individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Vaccine safety is the nation’s and Idaho’s No. 1 priority. The CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in administering the vaccine until additional information is available for healthcare providers about evaluation and treatment of this rare adverse event among people who have been vaccinated. The Idaho Immunization Program has notified Idaho providers.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are focused on sharing accurate and timely information related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) spends time every day making sure we share accurate and timely information in various ways including: our weekly media briefings, our website, social media, and answering questions directly from members of the public and the media.

The reality is that telling the truth saves lives. When Idahoans have access to accurate information, they can make informed decisions about their own health and the health of their families and communities. We continue to remain dedicated to keeping the people of Idaho safe through accurate information.

I would encourage you to use trusted sources for information when sharing COVID-related information. You can find the latest and most accurate information on COVID-19 at the following websites, as well as on the department’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter:

Data Dashboards

The DHW data teams have worked diligently every day to make sure Idahoans have the data they need to make informed decisions during the past year. We have made some changes to how often the data on the dashboards will be updated to allow them to have weekends off. The new update schedule for the data dashboards is as follows:

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COVID-19 Q&A: Breakthrough cases and variants

Q: Are we seeing cases of disease among Idahoans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19? How many of those people have been hospitalized? Have there been any deaths?

A: We have seen some “breakthrough cases,” which is the term being used to refer to people who have been fully vaccinated, but who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Breakthrough cases are expected since no vaccine offers 100 percent protection against illness. COVID-19 vaccines are the best protection we have against serious illness and death, in addition to the recommended guidelines. And the data bears that out. The good news, so far, is that people who develop COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated have experienced mostly mild to moderate illness.

Of the 105 cases reported as of today, only three have had to be hospitalized, and there have been no deaths. The three who were hospitalized had medical conditions that increased their risk for serious illness.

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