Teresa Little

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March 13, 2020, was the date we held our kick-off event for the Idaho Women 100 yearlong celebration of women’s suffrage on our State Capitol steps. It was a large gathering with people hugging, greeting each other warmly and in tight groups for photos. It was also the date our governor, my husband, made all Idahoans first aware of the precautions we must begin to take due to the coronavirus.

That was the very last day many of us gathered closely together with anyone without very careful consideration and precautions.

Truly amazing, in Idaho in less than one year, we have gone from first awareness of coronavirus to a full-scale rollout of not one but, two highly effective vaccines with more on the way!

This past month I have been engaged in our hometown of Emmett assisting with vaccine appointment registration and drive-thru clinics. It is heartwarming volunteer work.

There are definite ways you could help this process speed along in your community, too.

First, educate yourself on how and where folks in your community may register for a vaccine.

The coronavirus.idaho.gov website is an excellent place to do this. If English is not a person’s first language, the site may be converted to these languages: Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, French and Russian. You may also enlarge or decrease the font size. The first link on the page is “When and where to get your vaccination.” The page clearly lets you know who is eligible now as well as approximate dates for next eligible groups. There are links within this for the seven health districts in our state, with links and phone numbers for who is providing vaccinations within that health district. Check back to the site regularly as pharmacies are being added to the mix.

The website has a “Vaccine administration transparency data” link. There, you will see where doses of vaccine into the state are currently located and where they have been distributed.

The other link I find very informative is the “COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard.” There you will find regularly updated information on those vaccinated, number of first and second doses, by county and health district. It also maps the vaccination rates for ages 16+ by county and health district.

With this knowledge in hand, please reach out to your family members, friends, church members, etc., who do not navigate the internet well, and ask them if they need help in securing an appointment. Your assistance in this process would be a huge blessing in their lives. If you, then, feel comfortable giving them a ride to their appointments, this would also be an act of love.

NBC very recently put up a web site: planyourvaccine.com. If you wish to help family living in other states, it is a good tool to guide you. Crushthecurveidaho.com has an easy to navigate site up and running too.

My friend, Laurey and I have spent many hours and days calling people with higher risk profiles in our community. If they navigate the internet and have an e-mail address, we have sent them a link to register for an upcoming clinic. If they do not have e-mail, we have registered them over the phone. Frustrations with computer glitches aside, it is a joy to know we are helping people secure an appointment. Their sense of relief transfers right through the phone line.

In Emmett, Angela Booker and Beth Sutton of Valor Health, Laurie Boston, our Gem County Emergency Planning Officer, and Curt Christensen, our Emmett Fire Chief, have coordinated four large clinics: one walk-in and three drive-thru to date.

The people working the clinics, including the nurses, doctors, pharmacists, first responders and their assistants, are also the people who have had an extremely tumultuous time this past year as they gave care to COVID ill patients along with their other patients. Now, they are doing their regular work, COVID patients, COVID testing, plus vaccine distribution. It is a lot to manage! The vaccinating teams I have observed have been extremely kind, friendly, and patient with those they are helping. We are grateful for them.

Our drive-thru clinics have enabled willing volunteers to assist with traffic control and other duties, freeing trained professionals for their important work. Freshly brewed coffee, home-baked muffins and cookies for staff and volunteers have been most appreciated contributions from community members.

Though bundled up in the cold weather, it has been a lot of fun to see grateful people and longtime friends come through the drive-thru clinics...when we actually are able to recognize them and they us behind their masks and ours! Our friends Sue and Millie brought their 103-year-old Mom, Gerry Shaw, through to receive her vaccine. Mary Weerheim, our son Adam’s second grade teacher, received her vaccine one day and delivered delicious individual servings of homemade caramel corn to the crew the next. At the end of our first drive-thru clinic we had a dose left. The first woman on our waiting list did not drive and did not have a ride to come right down. Bless their hearts, one of our PA’s and a fireman drove to her home, gave her the vaccine, and waited with her to be sure she did not have a reaction. Love in action, for sure.

It remains a critical part of our path out of this pandemic to continue to mask (even two with the variants so prevalent), social distance, and wash our hands frequently. We have come so far in less than a year.

Stay vigilant. Stay vigilant in honor of those who have died of COVID. Stay vigilant in support of those continuing to suffer long lasting effects of COVID illness. Stay vigilant to continue to protect your health and the health of all you encounter. Stay vigilant for all those doing their very best to keep you well.

Stay vigilant so when this pandemic ends, we may, once again, safely gather in large groups, hug our loved ones and friends, celebrate birthdays, weddings and holidays, mourn our deceased, and begin to put a health crisis — turned ugly political mess — behind us.

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