Crisis standards of care lifted in North Idaho

Health officials share warnings of omicron variant as Idaho continues effort to stop federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare deactivated crisis standards of care for the Panhandle Health District on Dec. 20 — nearly a month after rescinding the resource-saving measure in all other health districts across the state.

IDHW shared in a media release that, while the number of COVID-19 patients remains high, “the surge is cur-rently no longer exceeding the health care resources available.”

“While this is good news for Idaho, we’re still watching the omicron variant very closely, because this is a precarious time,” said IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen. “Omicron seems to spread more easily between people, and we all need to keep taking precautions against COVID-19 by getting vaccinated or getting a booster dose, wearing masks in crowded areas, physically distancing from others, washing our hands frequently and staying home if we’re sick to avoid overwhelming our health care systems again.”

According to IDHW, “it will be some time before health care systems return to full, normal operations,” and “it also will take time for the health care systems to work through the many delayed surger-ies and other medical treatments” that were pushed off due to strained hospital capacities amid the pandemic.

Bonner General Health officials told the Reader Nov. 19 that the local hospi-tal was no longer operating under crisis standards. However, “this could change if our volumes increase again,” said BGH spokesperson Erin Binnall.

IDHW also reported Dec. 20 that “the state will continue to provide resources including health care per-sonnel via FEMA and existing federal contracts until the situation further stabilizes.” In other state coronavirus news, Gov. Brad Little announced Dec. 20 that Idaho joined 26 other states in filing an emergency motion to reinstate the stay in the U.S. Supreme Court on President Joe Biden’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine mandate, after the Sixth Circuit dissolved the stay Friday, Dec. 17. The mandate prescribes that employers with 100 or more employees require their workers to be vaccinated against the virus, or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

“We are doing all we can to put a stop to Biden’s unprecedented government overreach into the private sector,” said Little, who throughout the pandemic has been an ardent supporter of the COVID-19 vaccines as well as consistent in his message of personal responsibility over government mandates.

“The majority of the nation’s governors oppose Biden’s damaging and ineffective vaccine mandate policies, but he continues to push them on citizens, businesses and the states,” he added. “Thankfully, two other vaccine mandates remain stayed, and collec-tively the states will give a voice to the millions of Americans being coerced and cornered by the president.”

Meanwhile, Biden announced Dec. 21 that the U.S. government has plans to purchase and provide 500 million free at-home COVID rapid testing kits to Americans, who will be able to use a website to order the tests and have them mailed directly to their homes. According to the Associated Press, this effort will officially launch in January, and the 500 million number could increase depending on how the pandemic continues to impact the country.

Bonner General Health’s local coronavirus testing site has been relocated to 400 Schweitzer Plaza Drive in Ponderay. Testing site hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The site will be closed Thursday, Dec. 23 and Friday, Dec. 24, as well as on Friday, Dec. 31. A provider’s order is required to receive a COVID-19 test at this location.

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