COVID-19 Q&A: Hospital capacity, getting tested, and Thanksgiving

Q: I keep hearing that hospital officials in Idaho are very concerned about capacity, and they might have to implement crisis standards of care. What does that mean? If I needed life-saving care, would a hospital really turn me away?

A: We have been emphasizing this since the start of the pandemic: Hospitals, including those in Idaho, have limited capacity. When they no longer have enough staff or beds or equipment to treat patients, they will have to divert patients to other hospitals, turn people away if other hospitals are not accepting diverted patients, and possibly set up field hospitals. Healthcare will have to be rationed. Idaho has a Crisis Standards of Care Plan that outlines what this looks like and what would trigger it to be implemented.

However, we don’t want to get to that point!  We can PREVENT it by following the recommended guidelines and wearing a mask when we’re around others who don’t live with us, keeping 6 feet between ourselves and others we don’t live with, washing or sanitizing our hands often, and staying home if we feel sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a scientific brief that says that mask-wearing protects others, but it also protects the person wearing it. That’s new, and worth remembering. It’s a very small sacrifice to wear a mask, and when most of us do, it lowers the risk of infection for all of us. That also helps our hospitals and healthcare workers. Fewer people get sick and require hospital-level care, which can be provided when it’s needed.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Hospital capacity, getting tested, and Thanksgiving”

There’s a path forward for families eligible for P-EBT program: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

The state of Idaho is participating in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program, but it took some work to get to a path forward.

The P-EBT provides eligible families with a one-time payment for each child who previously received free or reduced-price meals at school. The Department of Health and Welfare does not administer the school lunch program. In order for Idaho to implement the P-EBT program, DHW and the Department of Education had to work out data share agreements to make sure data could be shared between the departments. Conversations between the two agencies started in earnest in early June. Because each individual school district owns the data for families eligible for the school lunch program, we worked together to ensure we were able to get all of the information in a format we could use from local public school districts to implement the program.

Now that the path forward has been determined, DHW and the Department of Education have submitted their plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval, and we have full confidence that our plan will be approved. When it is approved, we will get P-EBT payments to eligible families as soon as possible.

Idaho remains in Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds Plan for two more weeks

During Gov. Brad Little’s press conference on Thursday, he announced that Idaho would remain in Stage 4 for the next two weeks. Although we are staying in Stage 4, there is good news for Idahoans because:

  • Idaho has sufficient healthcare workers, PPE, ventilators, and ICU beds, and we are meeting the demands for testing our healthcare workers statewide. 
  • The state has downward trends in overall case counts as well as our percent-positivity rate.
  • Emergency room visits from those with COVID-like symptoms are declining.

Gov. Little added overall hospital admissions statewide to the list of metrics used to examine Idaho’s situation every two weeks and said those numbers need to be on a downward trend. He also noted that in some of the state’s hot spots, we are starting to see the benefits of the measures that local public health officials and mayors have put in place such as mask/cloth face covering orders or resolutions.

Continue reading “There’s a path forward for families eligible for P-EBT program: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”

Have a safe Fourth of July weekend: A message from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

This upcoming holiday weekend is a test for all of us. Can we enjoy our beautiful state, spend time with family, take a vacation, and still keep ourselves and communities safe from the spread of COVID-19?

The answer is: We can. I hope you will remember to do your part this weekend to keep Idaho open and protect our vulnerable loved ones. It’s a personal choice, but I hope you take that choice seriously. Because COVID-19 is no joke.

We need to slow the spread

We know that the majority of new cases are in Ada County and, in particular, there is a surge in new cases among young adults. Central Health District made the tough but appropriate and critical decision to move Ada County back to Stage 3 through a new Order.

Because of the continued increase in cases among young adults in many counties across the state, it is more important than ever to encourage young adults to take recommended precautions to protect those who are vulnerable in our state. We need to protect our parents and grandparents. We need to protect those with immunosuppressed systems. We need to show our families, friends, and communities that we understand we are all in this together, and we will do whatever we can to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Young adults may show very few symptoms and may even be asymptomatic, but they can spread the virus to others who may be more vulnerable. Let’s work together to keep our families safe. It really does take all of us.

Continue reading “Have a safe Fourth of July weekend: A message from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”

Public Health staff, programs work hard to keep Idahoans safe and healthy. We need your support during COVID-19.

Public Health employees take their jobs to protect the health and safety of Idahoans very seriously, even when Idaho isn’t in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

Public health practitioners look after our health and safety in Idaho through a range of services that include, but are not limited to, maternal and child health, immunizations, chronic and communicable diseases surveillance and intervention, food safety regulation, environmental health, emergency medical services licensing, vital records administration (including birth and death records), rural healthcare provider recruitment, laboratory services, and bioterrorism preparedness. They also record and compile health statistics, so we have some historical context for what makes us sick or unwell.

Public health programs and services promote healthy lifestyles and prevention activities while monitoring and intervening in disease transmission and health risks as a safeguard for Idahoans. Public health activities largely go unnoticed until there is a crisis like this COVID-19 pandemic.

I am very proud of the work we are doing at the state and local levels to help keep Idaho healthy and safe, for both COVID-19 response and non-COVID activities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local public health have been working collaboratively to respond. Public health at the state level works with and supports the locals as they manage the pandemic response. When the state issues guidelines and protocols, they have been developed in close coordination with the health districts.

Continue reading “Public Health staff, programs work hard to keep Idahoans safe and healthy. We need your support during COVID-19.”

DHW receives reports of first two human cases of West Nile virus infection this year

Idaho’s first two human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) infection for 2019 have been confirmed in residents of Washington County. A resident over the age of 30 was diagnosed with West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease. Another resident over the age of 60 was diagnosed with West Nile virus fever.

So far this year, WNV activity has been detected in 10 counties.

“The detection of West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes has increased significantly during the last few weeks and we strongly encourage Idahoans to fight the bite of mosquitoes to protect themselves and their families,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian. “Confirmation of human infection makes it increasingly important for all of us to take protective measures. This includes wearing insect repellent and protective clothing in addition to reducing standing water around our gardens and homes where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.” Continue reading “DHW receives reports of first two human cases of West Nile virus infection this year”

IDHW Division of Public Health among 11 awarded national accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board

Public Health horizontal

We’re pleased and excited to be recognized for achieving national standards that foster effectiveness and promote continuous quality improvement in public health. The accreditation process helps to ensure that the programs and services we provide are as responsive as possible to the needs of all Idaho residents. With accreditation, the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare’s Division of Public Health continues to promote and protect the health and safety of all Idahoans — thanks to our fantastic IDHW employees, our community partners, our state legislators and citizens across the state for helping achieve this milestone!

PHABAlexandria, VA, June 14, 2017 — A national program to improve and protect the health of the public continued its nationwide expansion this week as 11 more governmental public health departments — including the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare’s Division of Public Health — achieved five-year accreditation status through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). The decisions bring another 19.7 million people into a rapidly growing network of communities served by health departments that meet rigorous national standards for delivering quality programs and services.  Continue reading “IDHW Division of Public Health among 11 awarded national accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board”

Fight the Bite – For Both Mosquitoes and Bats!

New reports of West Nile virus infections and bats being found with rabies are a good warning for people to watch out for biting critters.

Today, Southwest District Health Department announced three human cases of West Nile virus, two in Canyon County and one in Payette County, bringing the statewide total to 5. Also today, Central District Health issued a warning for people to be aware of an above-average season of rabid bats, documenting 7 rabid bats in Ada County since June. Last year, Ada County reported 2 rabid bats. Continue reading “Fight the Bite – For Both Mosquitoes and Bats!”

West Nile virus discovered in Southwest Idaho

Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus (WNV) have been detected this week in Canyon and Payette counties, prompting public health officials to remind people to take precautions to fight the bite. The positive mosquitoes are the first detected in the state this year.

“West Nile Virus can cause serious illness so it is very important that people take precautions to avoid bites and mosquito-proof their homes,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, from the Idaho Division of Public Health. “With our recent warm weather we could see an increase in mosquito activity over the holiday, so we urge people to be careful.” Continue reading “West Nile virus discovered in Southwest Idaho”

Elmore County Cat Likely Died from Plague

Central District Health Department issued a news release this afternoon advising people to take precautions with their pets in desert areas that may contain rodents carrying the plague. Preliminary lab results of a pet cat that died in Elmore County show probable infection with the plague bacteria.

The state reported die-offs of ground squirrels, often referred to as whistle pigs, from plague last week. Plague is transmitted through the bite of fleas and can cause serious illness to people and pets if not treated quickly.

To read the Central District Health Department’s news release, please click here is a new and unique way for consumers to discover and connect to supports that can help them live healthier lives. offers a ‘holistic web approach’ for Idahoans

Live better, Idaho.

A new website focused on empowering Idahoans to do just that is now available. is a new and unique way for consumers to discover and connect to supports that can help them live healthier lives. By linking them to appropriate services, they can be empowered to make better choices and – we hope — move themselves and their families to independent, healthier lives.

“It is a very ambitious goal and helps the public quickly take action to access local, state and national resources available to help Idahoans,” said Dick Armstrong, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW). “ is more of a holistic web approach for people who want to improve their lives. It can help them put food on their tables, enroll in a nutrition education class, find jobs and mentors, make child support payments, quit smoking, and get access to healthcare, among other things.” is a new and unique way for consumers to discover and connect to supports that can help them live healthier lives.

The site was created by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to fulfill an initiative in its strategic plan, but the department is only the facilitator for a strategy of connecting people in need to a larger framework that includes community partnerships and services in addition to public assistance programs. Continue reading “ offers a ‘holistic web approach’ for Idahoans”