Then vs. Now

How Eastern Idaho Public Health supported our community during the pandemic

Published online: Sep 25, 2021 Articles, East Idaho Health Britni A. Storer, Protégé Consulting
Viewed 543 time(s)

A huge collective sigh of relief was felt this past summer as Idaho residents got outside more, gathered more and returned to activities that were missed last summer as part of the lockdown. As we enter into fall and return to spending more time indoors, it’s important to look back on the tireless efforts of some of those who made it possible for Idahoans to more freely enjoy our summers after the pandemic.

Looking Back

Beginning in February of 2020, Eastern Idaho Public Health (EIPH) began a long, rigorous campaign to educate the public about the pandemic spreading across the world. 

“As we were seeing this new emerging virus...education and information is what we had to offer,” said Geri Rackrow, Director of Eastern Idaho Public Health. “We are continuing to do this 15 to 16 months later...it’s been a long ongoing effort.”

Early in the pandemic, EIPH coordinated with federal, state and local agencies to deliver PPE (personal protective equipment) to medical facilities that were short on supplies, and these efforts by EIPH continue to this day. Epidemiologists and disease investigators were also called on staff so that when a positive COVID-19 case was reported they were able to further investigate the situation.

As the effects of the virus continued to unfold, the EIPH worked closely with the U.S. Dept. of Human Health and Services to provide surge testing, which began in December of last year and went through April of this year when the program was discontinued at the federal level. While EIPH still has some testing abilities, the Dept. of Health and Welfare is still offering it at state levels, and information about obtaining at-home test kits can be found by dialing 211. 

“Over the last year and a half, we’ve made ongoing efforts to provide not only the public with information but also for providers to have adequate information in making sure they had the necessary information to understand what the disease was,” said James Corbett, Community Health Division Director for EIPH. “We spent many meetings and phone calls with providers to help them understand what the process would be for immunization, when testing was available for state and local labs to get individuals tested, and how to get the results quickly as possible so we had the best chance of mitigating and providing strategies to reduce the spread of the disease.”

EIPH staff members often worked 7 days a week educating providers as well as local government, private industries, restaurants and schools in order to help them understand how they could reduce the chance of spreading the disease. Other efforts by EIPH included frequent webinars, live Facebook videos and further information to help the community get back to running their businesses as safely as possible. 

December also brought about another major action point for EIPH as they worked in conjunction with other healthcare providers to get the vaccine out to people as quickly as possible.

“We are still offering the vaccine in every single one of our offices, and we are working with communities to take the vaccine out to more rural areas,” Rackrow said. “Since April or May, we have also been able to provide onsite clinics to employers, whether it’s at an office or an agricultural farm. We are continuing to take vaccines to where people can access it.”

The Present

As the COVID counts continue on a downward trend, EIPH efforts are now focused on the low vaccination rates in the states. “The concern with the low vaccination rate in our region/state is that we have a lot of our population that is going to be susceptible to the variants of the virus,” Rackrow shares. “That’s why we are continuing to educate on the importance of the vaccine in order to get protection of those variants.” 

As fall approaches and kids return to school, EIPH recognizes the likelihood of seeing a rise in numbers again, and since only children ages 12 and older can get the vaccine, EIPH urges the public to continue taking everyday cautions to prevent the spread of disease. 

“First and foremost, stay home if you’re sick, and second, have good hand hygiene, which includes lots of handwashing and not touching eyes and nose where viruses could be introduced,” Rackrow said. “Having a healthy lifestyle—good nutrition, sleep, and an active lifestyle to be able to fight off illness with your immune system—all those things are just as important this coming fall season.”

As Idaho continues to stay in Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebound Plan that was initiated back in May, EIPH’s website can be accessed to get more information and news on COVID-19, to schedule vaccines, and to view a data dashboard to learn more about case counts. While EIPH’s emphasis is no longer about the number of positive cases in the state, their efforts are now focused on vaccinations and education.

“It’s a different picture today than it was last year.” Rackrow reveals. “Providing public education was a huge piece—and continues to be a huge piece—of what [EIPH] does...to help the public make informed decisions over their health.” 


For More Information

Eastern Idaho Public Health

www.eiph.idaho.gov

1250 Hollipark Drive, Idaho Falls, ID 83401

208-522-0310

*Information is subject to change after this article was written in July. For the most current information, please visit Eastern Idaho Public Health’s website. 

To read more of the September issue click here.

Share

Send to your friends!

  • Like what you read?

    Get Idaho Falls Magazine straight to your door!

  • Subscribe Today!

    Sign Up