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Idaho 'on a path to exit crisis standards of care'

by BILL BULEY
Hagadone News Network | November 25, 2021 1:00 AM

Citing “encouraging downward trends,” Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said Tuesday, “I do anticipate we are on a path to exit crisis standards of care.”

He said new COVID-19 cases, deaths attributed to the virus and hospitalizations are declining, but remain high.

On average last week in Idaho there were 370 COVID-19 patents, 170 in critical care and 63 on ventilators.

Kootenai Health had 69 COVID-19 patients Tuesday, down from 150 a little over a month ago.

However, Jeppesen could not say when crisis standards of care, which have been in effect at Kootenai Health since early September, might end.

“There’s still stress on hospitals," Jeppesen said.

The DHW held a media briefing about COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist, said the focus remains on raising the state’s vaccination rates, getting kids 5 to 11 vaccinated now that they are eligible for shots, and encouraging people to get booster shots, as well.

Fifty-six percent of Idahoans over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nationwide for people ages 12 years or older, 78.4% have received at least one dose of vaccine and 68.1% are fully vaccinated.

Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program, said there have been 173,939 additional boosters and third doses of the vaccine administered in Idaho.

In the 5-11 age group, 8,667 doses have been administered in just over a week.

“The rollout has been strong,” she said.

Heather Gagliano, a registered nurse who has conducted COVID-19 outreach in Hispanic communities in Idaho, said they have found a model that works in encouraging people to get vaccinated.

It includes partnering with “trusted” community organizations and people, and arriving in communities prior to a mobile vaccination clinic and answering questions. They plan to use this model throughout Idaho.

Gagliano said she found that many people were anxious and fearful about the safety of the vaccine. But health officials were able to help them overcome those worries by offering information, showing them videos and reassuring them it was OK.

“After people got vaccinated, they seem to have this confidence that came over them,” she said.

They even called and texted friends and family about how well it went and said, “You gotta come down here," Gagliano said.

When asked if it was safe for kids to be unmasked in schools, Hahn said that’s the “million dollar question.”

She said with the holidays coming up, colder weather rolling in and more people indoors, and perhaps a new variant popping up, there could be a surge of new COVID-19 cases.

Hahn said she hopes more kids get vaccinated and they continue to wear masks at schools.

Officials said there have been thousands of elective procedures delayed across the state due to hospitals being crowded with COVID-19 patients.

As coronavirus cases decline, that should open the door for elective surgeries.

Jeppesen said he has not heard of anyone facing a life-threatening situation being denied surgery in Idaho.