DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Let’s All Do Our Part to Keep Idaho Open

Yesterday, Gov. Brad Little announced that Idaho will enter Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds Plan to safely and responsibly open the economy in stages. However, it’s important to note that Idaho barely met the criteria established by our state’s public health team, so it is more important than ever to follow recommended precautions so we can keep Idaho open.

  • 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.

On Saturday, 100 percent of businesses will be able to open their doors as we enter Stage 4 of our Idaho Rebounds plan. That means:

  • Visits to senior living facilities and other congregate facilities can resume, under strict protocols to protect residents and workers.
  • Nightclubs may operate with precautionary measures in place.
  • Large venues such as sporting events can operate under protocols, including physical distancing.
  • Employers can resume unrestricted staffing but should continue to practice physical distancing and sanitation, including the use of teleworking where practical. Special accommodations for individuals at higher risk for severe illness should be made.
  • Travel can continue to locations that have no ongoing virus transmission.
  • Gatherings of any size can occur as long as physical distancing and precautionary measures can occur.
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Idaho public health officials work closely with long-term care facilities to help slow the spread of COVID-19

Like other states around the country, Idaho has unfortunately had cases and deaths related to COVID-19 in long-term care facilities since the start of the pandemic in Idaho in mid-March.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for the vulnerable residents of those facilities, which include skilled nursing homes, assisted living and memory care, and intermediate care facilities. Idaho has about 400 of those facilities.

Public health officials at the state and local public health districts continue to work closely with long-term care facilities throughout the state to make sure they have access to testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and the latest guidance for how to slow or stop transmission of COVID-19 for these highly vulnerable people. Much of this guidance has been posted at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/ltc/.

But it has been challenging. The virus that causes COVID-19 is new, and the world is still learning how to treat and contain it. It is such a contagious virus that it can spread easily among vulnerable residents in congregate living facilities. A confirmed COVID-positive resident in a facility is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of care or the performance of that facility.

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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.

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