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Idaho moves to Stage 4

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | May 12, 2021 1:00 AM

The Department of Health and Welfare announced Tuesday that Idaho continues to thrive during the pandemic and is moving from Stage 3 to Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds Plan.

“Thanks to the actions of Idahoans in protecting their neighbors and getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Idaho’s schools and businesses have stayed open longer than almost every other state and we have prevented a crisis in our health care system. The move to Stage 4 signals to Idahoans that we have been open, and we will stay open, and we must keep up the good work,” Gov. Brad Little said.

Meanwhile, Idaho youth 12 to 15 could begin receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and and Prevention is expected to have its recommendation out today, and following suit, the state agencies could give approval for use of the Pfizer vaccine today as well. The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized vaccine for those 12 to 15 years of age.

“Sometimes, adolescents react differently to vaccines,” said Dr. Christine Hahn, Public Health medical director, on Tuesday during an online media briefing.

“There are reasons to wait,” she said.

Hahn said about 15% of Idaho teens 16-17 have received a COVID-19 vaccine, but they would like to see more in that age group vaccinated.

“We realize we have a lot of work to do,” Hahn said.

Trials by Pfizer found that young people responded well to the vaccine, Hahn said, and it worked well protecting them. There were zero cases of someone who received the vaccine still getting the coronavirus, while in the placebo group, 18 were infected.

“The vaccine worked very well,” Hahn said.

Dr. Kathryn Turner, deputy state epidemiologist, said most children infected with the coronavirus had very mild symptoms or you can’t tell they are infected because they don’t display conditions associated with it.

In the PHD and Kootenai County, the vaccination rate of those 16 and over is 38%, according to the state’s website. In Idaho, 540,168 people are fully vaccinated, about 30% of the state’s population.

Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program, said demand for the vaccine is waning, but the state is planning a “multi-pronged approach to persuade folks to choose to get vaccinated.”

PHD reported 48 new cases on Tuesday.

DHW Director Dave Jeppesen said the state’s overall numbers “are very encouraging, and we are confident about our decision to move the state to Stage 4.

“We’re currently seeing some of the best numbers we have seen since last summer. We think the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the main reasons for that, and we want to encourage people who haven’t yet gotten the vaccine to consider choosing to get the vaccine to allow things to continue to improve.”

 Under the Stage 4 Stay Healthy Guidelines:

  • Idaho remains open with recommendations to protect lives, healthcare access, and the economy.
  • Vaccines are encouraged to help keep Idaho open.
  • There are no more recommended gathering size limitations, but recommended guidance on how to gather safely is available and encouraged.
  • Face coverings are recommended when physical distancing is difficult per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Face coverings continue to be required for people who are visiting or working in a long-term care facility, to protect vulnerable residents.
  • Everyone, including businesses, should follow physical distancing and sanitation recommendations.
  • Everyone 16 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho. There are no out-of-pocket costs to anyone who gets the vaccine.