Gov. Little announces task force to create COVID-19 testing strategy

Posted at 2:46 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 16:46:31-04

BOISE, Idaho — Governor Brad Little announced Friday a new public-private task force will create a coronavirus testing strategy for Idaho. A staged reopening of the state was announced earlier this week.

“The staged reopening of our economy can only occur with a combination of efforts, and expanded and targeted testing is a big part of our strategy,” Governor Little said. “We are on the verge of seeing testing capacity significantly open up in Idaho and elsewhere. Our new Testing Task Force will set criteria for when and how frequently someone should be tested and how to move toward a common reporting platform across the state. We have a strong team of very capable local clinical and laboratory and research experts from across the state helping us navigate this crisis, and I appreciate their help.”

The task force met Thursday and is co-chaired by Dr. Jim Souza and Dr. Christopher Ball. Souza is the chief medical officer for St. Luke's Health System and Ball is the director of the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories.

“We know that testing capabilities have been limited in too many areas and we are glad for the increasing capacity that is coming online in multiple areas,” Dr. Souza said. “We know we need to reopen our economy based upon sound principles that allow progress while maintaining safety. Testing will be a key tool to inform these decisions. The task force will provide recommendations that serve to inform the most effective reopening actions.”

The task force will inform the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the Governor's coronavirus working group, healthcare and laboratory entities and businesses on statewide testing. The group is focusing on improvements in the following areas:

  • Safe and efficient screening and testing sites for symptomatic individuals, including those with mild symptoms
  • Screening and testing locations in all regions of the state, including places that serve older individuals, rural and lower income populations, and racial and ethnic minorities
  • Robust COVID-19 testing programs for at-risk healthcare workers

Participants of the Testing Task Force include:

  • Dr. Christopher Ball (Director, Idaho Bureau of Laboratories)
  • Dr. Jim Souza (Chief Medical Officer, St. Luke’s Health System)

State and Local Public Health
Division of Public Health:

  • Dr. Christine Hahn (Public Health Medical Director and State Epidemiologist)
  • Dr. Kris Carter (Career Epidemiology Field Officer)
  • Dr. Carolyn Bridges (Consultant)
  • Elke Shaw-Tulloch (Division Administrator, State Health Official)

Local Public Health District:

  • Maggie Mann (Director, Southeastern Idaho Public Health)

Boise Veterans Administration Medical Center:

  • Dr. Andrew Wilper (Chief of Staff)

Kootenai Health:

  • Dr. Karen Cabell (Chief Physician Executive)

Saint Alphonsus Health System:

  • Dr. Steven Nemerson (Chief Clinical Officer)
  • Dr. Patrice Burgess (Systems Contact for Testing)

St. Luke's Health System:

  • Dr. Matthew Burtelow (Boise Pathology Group, St. Luke’s Treasure Valley Medical Executive Committee)
  • Dr. Sky Blue (infectious disease physician, Sawtooth Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, St. Luke’s Infection Prevention Committee)

Idaho Emergency Responders Health Center

  • Dr. Rob Hilvers

Retail Pharmacy

  • Albertsons Corporation: Rob Geddes, Director of Pharmacy and Regulatory Affairs

Community Organization

  • Crush the Curve: Mike Boren