By Reader Staff
Gov. Brad Little announced Jan. 31 that he would activate the Idaho National Guard for the fourth time during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic “to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 in Idaho.”
According to a media release, Little activated 75 Idaho National Guardsmen to assist Primary Health and the Idaho Department of Correction, which are experiencing staffing shortages because too many employees are absent from work due to COVID-19. Little also secured 503 additional personnel through a state contract to assist Idaho hospitals overwhelmed by the virus.
“I am proud of our men and women of the Idaho National Guard who have stepped up time and again to help our state and communities get through an unprecedented, challenging time,” Little said. “The strain on health care, schools, business and government from the spread of COVID-19 is a reminder that we are not out of the pandemic, and we need to be vigilant about keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy.”
Little’s office issued a reminder of all actions taken by the the state in directing resources to expand health care capacity during the pandemic, including mobilizing the National Guard, deploying a military medical response team to North Idaho last year, and contracting with the federal government to add hundreds of personnel to assist hospitals and affected entities.
Idaho has also allocated $1.8 million to expand the number of monoclonal antibody treatment facilities across the state, “cut red tape” when temporary licensing fees were waived for retired or inactive nurses so they could activate their licenses — adding more than 1,000 nurses and other health professionals to the state’s health care workforce.
In direct support of health care providers, $5.8 million has been allocated to hospitals to help relieve staffing shortages, another $5.5 million for primary care and urgent care entities, $8.5 million for increasing discharges from hospitals in order to preserve bed space and $30 million toward expanding COVID-19 testing in Idaho K-12 schools to minimize virus transmission.
Coverage of Idaho’s schools has gone hand-in-hand with statewide news about the virus. Idaho Education News identified Jan. 31 that the continued outbreak of the highly contagious omicron variant has “pushed Idaho’s coronavirus case numbers to another weekly record.”
“The state and its health districts counted another 19,667 new cases last week,” Idaho Ed News reported, “a 14% increase from the previous week’s record.”
The positive test rate also set a record for the third week in a row, rising from 35.2 to 38.8%, and backlogged positive cases — some 40,000 — have yet to be processed by the state’s health districts.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jappesen told reporters at a Feb. 1 media briefing that “COVID-19 numbers across the state continue to go the wrong direction,” calling vaccination the way to “turn the tide.”
According to statistics from Idaho Ed News, the percentage of Idahoans vaccinated against COVID-19 grew last week from 52 to 53%.
On Jan. 31, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its full approval of the Moderna vaccine for use in people 18 and older, sharing in a press statement that the shot “meets the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality required for approval.”
Moderna is the second COVID-19 vaccine to gain such approval, with the Pfizer vaccine getting the official green light for use in people 16 and older in August. Both vaccines obtained emergency use authorization in late 2020.
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