Idahoans urged to receive COVID-19 vaccine now as students head back to school
BOISE - Governor Brad Little held a press conference Thursday at Nampa High School to highlight facts about unvaccinated Idahoans getting sick, strain occurring in hospitals, and to urge Idahoans on the fence about receiving the vaccine to get the shot now to protect students' ability to learn in their classrooms this school year.
"Idaho students are headed back to their classrooms starting next week. As I've stated from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our students need to be able to learn in their classrooms with their teachers and peers. Our main defense in ensuring the new school year is entirely in-person - free from outbreaks and quarantines - is the COVID-19 vaccine," Little said.
Little highlighted Idaho-specific facts about COVID activity in the state.
The vaccine slows the spread of the disease, but epidemiologists with the State of Idaho say that with low vaccination rates and the highly contagious Delta variant circulating in Idaho communities - which is twice as contagious as the original strain - projections indicate case counts could continue to increase through the fall and exceed last year's peak for daily case counts in as soon as two months.
Just over half of Idaho's adult population is vaccinated, with the greatest share of those vaccinated over the age of 65.
"I understand there are many who simply will not receive the vaccine under any circumstances, but there are also a lot of others who are on the fence about receiving the vaccine. To those friends and neighbors of ours waiting to receive the vaccine, the time to get the vaccine is now, when our students are going back to school. We can minimize or eliminate disruptions in the delivery of education as well as sports and extracurricular activities during this school year if more Idahoans choose to get vaccinated now. Our younger population cannot receive the vaccine and they need us - the adults - to make the right decision now so they can stay well and have a productive, successful school year," Little said.
Parents of 12- to 17-year-olds are also encouraged to have their children vaccinated. A pediatrician can help answer questions, and parents are encouraged to make an appointment to discuss the vaccine.
Over 197 million Americans have received the vaccine safely. The risk of serious side effects is extremely low. By comparison, the risk of death or hospitalization from the COVID-19 disease is much higher, and it is growing.
Idaho hospitals are once again filling up with COVID patients - almost all unvaccinated - and access to basic healthcare services is getting pinched for everyone. People with planned surgeries may have those surgeries delayed. People with heart attacks or strokes may find there is no bed available in their local hospital.
Little also noted the impacts of increased spread on our workforce.
"We cannot afford to have such a large share of our workforce out sick all at once. Our workforce cannot afford to stay home because schools and day cares shut down due to outbreaks. This threatens Idaho's phenomenal economic success," Little said. "Our hospitals won't be able to take in the influx of patients. And, importantly, it is not fair to our students who will experience disruptions in their school year."
Little said he is directing $30 million toward expanded COVID-19 testing in Idaho K-12 schools to help meet the need.
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