© 2021 Boise State Public Radio

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact us at boisestatepublicradio@boisestate.edu or call (208) 426-3663.
WebHeader_3.png
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
What is the single most important question about COVID-19 you think needs to be answered? Submit it for a special Idaho Matters Doctors Roundtable in English and Spanish.
Health
Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

READ: Idaho Gov. Brad Little's COVID-19 Press Conference

This is a transcription of the press conference given by Gov. Little (R) on Friday, March 13 at 10 a.m.:
 
 
 

BRAD LITTLE: Good morning. Thank you for being here today. As of today, Idaho is still reporting no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but we expect confirmed cases at some point. As this map as this map picks, we're surrounded by states, their experience spread a coronavirus. We are prepared and we are being proactive. I want to share the latest on what we are doing to prepare Idaho for coronavirus. Given the magnitude of both the global and national spread, our focus is on slowing the spread. For two reasons. First, to protect health compromised and elderly. And second is to preserve critical health care capacity. Dave Jeppesen, my director of Health and Welfare and chairman of my Coronavirus Working Group, just assembled a strike team to protect health compromised and elderly. This is key to preserving health care capacity issues. The strike team is meeting regularly and we will share more about that in a bit. Dr. Christine Hahn, our state epidemiologist, will also provide some updates on the Idaho situation. Idaho's public health officials and I have been tracking the coronavirus since January, when the first confirmed case was reported in the United States. To support the work of Idaho's public health agencies, I assemble my coronavirus Working Group, which has been meeting weekly and communicating daily. They are helping us to ask the right questions and focus our efforts on where it matters. We learn more about the coronavirus every day. We know that most people who contact who contracted, end up with mild or no symptoms, which reinforces the need for all of us to do our part to prevent the spread of coronavirus to those who could be more seriously impacted, the elderly with chronic underlying conditions and others with compromised immune systems. This vulnerable population, that's who we are seeking to protect. The coronavirus is highly contagious. If we don't all, if do our part to control the spread of coronavirus, then our health facilities will be overrun and patients will, in a short period of time. If you look at this chart, this chart demonstrates what we are trying to address. If too many people get sick too soon, our health care facilities will not have the capacity to deal with it. We are trying to flatten out this curve by slowing the spread of coronavirus. Our goal is to preserve hospital capacity and keep our health care workers safe and healthy by slowing down the influx of patients into our health care facilities. How? By doing all the things that you've been hearing about. Wash your hands, stay at home if you're sick, avoid others who are sick. If you feel the need, avoid large gatherings and don't travel to areas with community spread. So for these two reasons, to protect the vulnerable and to preserve hospital capacity, I am today signing an emergency declaration that enables us to do a few things. It increases our state's access to critical supplies, such as respirators from the national stockpile. It activates the use of Idaho's emergency operations plan and makes funds available for use in the emergency disaster fund. It allows me as governor more flexibility to expedite contracts in purchasing of supplies, and it allows for expedited renewal process for nurses who have retired or have left the profession to jump in and help the response efforts when that need comes. Right now, my focus is to make sure Idaho is as prepared as possible. And that is why I'm signing this emergency declaration. I also want to briefly address the testing for coronavirus, because I know this is one of the biggest questions that we will get. People need to know a few things: If someone has a fever or a cough, they should contact their medical provider to find out if they should be tested for coronavirus. People without any symptoms will not be tested at this time. After ruling out the flu through a rapid flu test, a provider may take a sample from a patient and send it to a lab where the actual coronavirus testing occurs. Most providers can use a simple swab to collect a sample. I was fortunate to have a state-run lab that can process coronavirus tests. The lab is keeping up on testing needs at this time. Dozens have been tested already and privately run labs are ramping up to begin testing for coronavirus. I want Idahoans to know we are ahead of the curve. We are being proactive. We are prepared for coronavirus. We are communicating with the business community, schools, locally elected officials. The federal government and citizens on a daily basis. We must not be alarmed, but we must be cautious. The old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Individually and collectively, we all have a duty to do what we can to protect the vulnerable and preserve health care access. Idahoans have always taken care of each other. Today with this new threat, we must do more. I urge everyone to consider how you can help to your neighbors and your loved ones who need to support while protecting them from getting coronavirus. I'll hand it over to Dave Jeppesen, who will discover the work of his strike team as well as a coronavirus working group.

 

 

DAVE JEPPESEN: Thank you, Governor. I'm Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. I want to thank the governor for his emergency declaration. As mentioned, this will allow access to additional important resources. The current focus of the working group is on protecting the health-compromised and elderly and to prevent or slow community spread to preserve health care capacity. The Governor's working group is in daily communication to support these goals. The communications include daily updates on global, national and state level situations. The working group is also focused on preparation in key areas, such as coordinating with hospitals and medical providers to ensure that they have what they need to provide the maximum healthcare capacity across the state. We've been working with federal partners to free up personal protective equipment -- that's masks and gowns and gloves -- for health care professionals across the state, as well as critical medical equipment, such as ventilators. The governor's emergency declaration will clear the way with our federal partners for this to happen. The working group this week formed a subgroup that we're calling a strike team. This strike team will be focused on accelerating the existing work to protect the health-compromised and elderly. This is the vulnerable population that we're looking to protect. And each of us needs to do our part to protect them. The best thing you can do to protect your family and friends who are health-compromised or elderly is to wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, avoid others who are sick, and if you're feeling sick or have been around those that are, please, do not expose those that are health compromised or elderly. The working group is here to support the governor and all Idahoans in our collective efforts to prevent or slow community spread, which will preserve health care capacity and to protect the health compromised and the elderly. The working group is helping Idaho to ensure that we are proactive and prepared for any situation that may occur with the coronavirus. I will now hand it over to Dr. Chris Hahn, our state epidemiologist.

 

 

DR. CHRISTINE HAHN: Good morning. As you heard from the governor, we do not have any known cases of coronavirus in Idaho at this time. And I emphasize that point again, because we are getting a lot of questions and concerns that and rumors that there are positives that we are not revealing. We absolutely are committed at all levels to immediately report to the public as soon as we have our first positive case. Again, we get test results coming in every day. So it could be later today, we don't know, but we are continuing to test. We've now tested over 100 patients, I should say, not samples hundred patients through our state public health laboratory. But what we really need is the governor alluded to is the testing from the commercial sector to start ramping up. We started yesterday. We got our first results from private laboratories that we had mentioned before. They electronically report to us. That's great news. So we know the system's working. We're getting those results. They were all negative, which is also great news. But that is going to certainly increase greatly in the coming days. Our state lab has also adopted a more rapid process and added a second lab machine that they can now do under FDA agreement, that they're doing that as quickly as the FDA moves things forward they are adapting these new technologies. Our state lab, though, as I mentioned, is somewhat limited. And we have had to prioritize the people who are seriously ill or who have a very high chance of being positive. For example, recently returned from a country with high disease rates. So we know we can't answer the entire need for Idaho and we really need the private labs sector to increase the amount of testing that they're doing. So we will continue to work on this issue. Also, we'd need to do more, I think, to let people know where they can go to get tested. We get a lot of questions about that and we are working to make sure and we've been in touch communication even as late as this morning. Communication with providers around the state, doctors from the various hospitals about how can we make sure people know where to go to get their test. It's not just a matter of having a lab test available, but where people know where they can go. And you may have heard this morning from the federal level. There is a growing emphasis from Dr. Fauci at the National Institutes of Health and others that they recognize there are some federal solutions that will help as well that we are going to look for for their help. Secondly, and lastly, I just want to mention, we understand with all the events being canceled around the country and in Idaho that people are looking to public health for guidance about that. Just yesterday on the coronavirus.idaho.gov web site was posted, a new guidance that was developed between the Health and Welfare and the District Health departments. We are all in agreement on this guidance and includes recommendations on when to consider closing certain venues. We are not mandating anything at this time. Again, each district health department does have that authority, as does the state if needed. But right now, these are recommendations and we'll direct you to that page. It's under the resources tab on that web site. So please take a look at that. The recommendations are when might an event, for example, large number people coming from out of state, or is it an event where there are a lot of elderly, vulnerable people that might be attending. Kind of those kinds of considerations for event planners and for communities to consider. And with that, thank you.

 

 

 

BRAD LITTLE: Good morning. Thank you for being here today. As of today, Idaho is still reporting no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but we expect confirmed cases at some point. As this map as this map picks, we're surrounded by states, their experience spread a coronavirus. We are prepared and we are being proactive. I want to share the latest on what we are doing to prepare Idaho for coronavirus. Given the magnitude of both the global and national spread, our focus is on slowing the spread. For two reasons. First, to protect health compromised and elderly. And second is to preserve critical health care capacity. Dave Jeppesen, my director of Health and Welfare and chairman of my Coronavirus Working Group, just assembled a strike team to protect health compromised and elderly. This is key to preserving health care capacity issues. The strike team is meeting regularly and we will share more about that in a bit. Dr. Christine Hahn, our state epidemiologist, will also provide some updates on the Idaho situation. Idaho's public health officials and I have been tracking the coronavirus since January, when the first confirmed case was reported in the United States. To support the work of Idaho's public health agencies, I assemble my coronavirus Working Group, which has been meeting weekly and communicating daily. They are helping us to ask the right questions and focus our efforts on where it matters. We learn more about the coronavirus every day. We know that most people who contact who contracted, end up with mild or no symptoms, which reinforces the need for all of us to do our part to prevent the spread of coronavirus to those who could be more seriously impacted, the elderly with chronic underlying conditions and others with compromised immune systems. This vulnerable population, that's who we are seeking to protect. The coronavirus is highly contagious. If we don't all, if do our part to control the spread of coronavirus, then our health facilities will be overrun and patients will, in a short period of time. If you look at this chart, this chart demonstrates what we are trying to address. If too many people get sick too soon, our health care facilities will not have the capacity to deal with it. We are trying to flatten out this curve by slowing the spread of coronavirus. Our goal is to preserve hospital capacity and keep our health care workers safe and healthy by slowing down the influx of patients into our health care facilities. How? By doing all the things that you've been hearing about. Wash your hands, stay at home if you're sick, avoid others who are sick. If you feel the need, avoid large gatherings and don't travel to areas with community spread. So for these two reasons, to protect the vulnerable and to preserve hospital capacity, I am today signing an emergency declaration that enables us to do a few things. It increases our state's access to critical supplies, such as respirators from the national stockpile. It activates the use of Idaho's emergency operations plan and makes funds available for use in the emergency disaster fund. It allows me as governor more flexibility to expedite contracts in purchasing of supplies, and it allows for expedited renewal process for nurses who have retired or have left the profession to jump in and help the response efforts when that need comes. Right now, my focus is to make sure Idaho is as prepared as possible. And that is why I'm signing this emergency declaration. I also want to briefly address the testing for coronavirus, because I know this is one of the biggest questions that we will get. People need to know a few things: If someone has a fever or a cough, they should contact their medical provider to find out if they should be tested for coronavirus. People without any symptoms will not be tested at this time. After ruling out the flu through a rapid flu test, a provider may take a sample from a patient and send it to a lab where the actual coronavirus testing occurs. Most providers can use a simple swab to collect a sample. I was fortunate to have a state-run lab that can process coronavirus tests. The lab is keeping up on testing needs at this time. Dozens have been tested already and privately run labs are ramping up to begin testing for coronavirus. I want Idahoans to know we are ahead of the curve. We are being proactive. We are prepared for coronavirus. We are communicating with the business community, schools, locally elected officials. The federal government and citizens on a daily basis. We must not be alarmed, but we must be cautious. The old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Individually and collectively, we all have a duty to do what we can to protect the vulnerable and preserve health care access. Idahoans have always taken care of each other. Today with this new threat, we must do more. I urge everyone to consider how you can help to your neighbors and your loved ones who need to support while protecting them from getting coronavirus. I'll hand it over to Dave Jeppesen, who will discover the work of his strike team as well as a coronavirus working group.

 

 

DAVE JEPPESEN : Thank you, Governor. I'm Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. I want to thank the governor for his emergency declaration. As mentioned, this will allow access to additional important resources. The current focus of the working group is on protecting the health-compromised and elderly and to prevent or slow community spread to preserve health care capacity. The Governor's working group is in daily communication to support these goals. The communications include daily updates on global, national and state level situations. The working group is also focused on preparation in key areas, such as coordinating with hospitals and medical providers to ensure that they have what they need to provide the maximum healthcare capacity across the state. We've been working with federal partners to free up personal protective equipment -- that's masks and gowns and gloves -- for health care professionals across the state, as well as critical medical equipment, such as ventilators. The governor's emergency declaration will clear the way with our federal partners for this to happen. The working group this week formed a subgroup that we're calling a strike team. This strike team will be focused on accelerating the existing work to protect the health-compromised and elderly. This is the vulnerable population that we're looking to protect. And each of us needs to do our part to protect them. The best thing you can do to protect your family and friends who are health-compromised or elderly is to wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, avoid others who are sick, and if you're feeling sick or have been around those that are, please, do not expose those that are health compromised or elderly. The working group is here to support the governor and all Idahoans in our collective efforts to prevent or slow community spread, which will preserve health care capacity and to protect the health compromised and the elderly. The working group is helping Idaho to ensure that we are proactive and prepared for any situation that may occur with the coronavirus. I will now hand it over to Dr. Chris Hahn, our state epidemiologist.

 

 

DR. CHRISTINE HAHN: Good morning. As you heard from the governor, we do not have any known cases of coronavirus in Idaho at this time. And I emphasize that point again, because we are getting a lot of questions and concerns that and rumors that there are positives that we are not revealing. We absolutely are committed at all levels to immediately report to the public as soon as we have our first positive case. Again, we get test results coming in every day. So it could be later today, we don't know, but we are continuing to test. We've now tested over 100 patients, I should say, not samples hundred patients through our state public health laboratory. But what we really need is the governor alluded to is the testing from the commercial sector to start ramping up. We started yesterday. We got our first results from private laboratories that we had mentioned before. They electronically report to us. That's great news. So we know the system's working. We're getting those results. They were all negative, which is also great news. But that is going to certainly increase greatly in the coming days. Our state lab has also adopted a more rapid process and added a second lab machine that they can now do under FDA agreement, that they're doing that as quickly as the FDA moves things forward they are adapting these new technologies. Our state lab, though, as I mentioned, is somewhat limited. And we have had to prioritize the people who are seriously ill or who have a very high chance of being positive. For example, recently returned from a country with high disease rates. So we know we can't answer the entire need for Idaho and we really need the private labs sector to increase the amount of testing that they're doing. So we will continue to work on this issue. Also, we'd need to do more, I think, to let people know where they can go to get tested. We get a lot of questions about that and we are working to make sure and we've been in touch communication even as late as this morning. Communication with providers around the state, doctors from the various hospitals about how can we make sure people know where to go to get their test. It's not just a matter of having a lab test available, but where people know where they can go. And you may have heard this morning from the federal level. There is a growing emphasis from Dr. Fauci at the National Institutes of Health and others that they recognize there are some federal solutions that will help as well that we are going to look for for their help. Secondly, and lastly, I just want to mention, we understand with all the events being canceled around the country and in Idaho that people are looking to public health for guidance about that. Just yesterday on the coronavirus.idaho.gov web site was posted, a new guidance that was developed between the Health and Welfare and the District Health departments. We are all in agreement on this guidance and includes recommendations on when to consider closing certain venues. We are not mandating anything at this time. Again, each district health department does have that authority, as does the state if needed. But right now, these are recommendations and we'll direct you to that page. It's under the resources tab on that web site. So please take a look at that. The recommendations are when might an event, for example, large number people coming from out of state, or is it an event where there are a lot of elderly, vulnerable people that might be attending. Kind of those kinds of considerations for event planners and for communities to consider. And with that, thank you.

 

 

Member support is what makes local COVID-19 reporting possible. Support this coverage here.