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Viewpoint: Idaho doctors dissect lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in new book

Dr. David Pate and Dr. Ted Epperly teamed up on book "Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak."

BOISE, Idaho — COVID-19 isn't in the news very much anymore, but it's still out there, and people are still getting sick from it. Certainly not at the levels we saw in the summer and fall of 2021.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, as of June 12, 30 people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID were hospitalized in Idaho. Compare that to September 24 of 2021 when the state had its highest number of patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID at 793.

We've come a long way since then. Such a long way that Johns Hopkins University of Medicine stopped collecting data on March 10, 2023. It had been a major case-tracking source since the start of the pandemic. On that date, John Hopkins reported Idaho had a total of 521,120 confirmed cases of COVID since the first two cases were reported here on March 13, 2020. It also reported 5,416 COVID-related deaths of Idahoans.

On May 11, the federal government allowed the Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 to expire.

So now is a good time to take stock of the lessons learned from the pandemic: What worked? What didn't? And what should we do when the next pandemic comes around? Experts say another pandemic is coming, but the unknowns are when, how big and how bad.

Two leading voices in educating, warning and comforting the public about the dangers of the most virulent strains of COVID, the best ways to protect ourselves, and the impacts of the virus on our health care systems and schools have authored the new book "Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak: A Guide to Planning from the Schoolhouse to the White House." It's published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Dr. David Pate is the retired president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, was a member of Governor Little's Coronavirus Working Group and is a doctor of Internal medicine.

Dr. Ted Epperly is a family medicine physician, president and CEO of Full Circle Health, and served as a Central District Health board member for 15 years.

Doctors Pate and Epperly talked about the lessons learned from the pandemic and their recommendations for the next one.

Below is an excerpt from the interview: 
Dr. Ted Epperly:  "David and I were both working off of the premise that, if we don't learn from the past, we're doomed to repeat it. And we wanted to have something out there that actually would be a guide to future generations, future people looking at the same problem because we looked into it and couldn't find anything that would help us plan and prepare for this."

Doug Petcash: Dr. Pate, what lessons did you learn in looking back at the early government response to the situation?

Dr. David Pate: Well, of course, one of the big things was terrible communication. We have to figure out a better job of how to communicate health information to people. Another big area was the fact that by the time countries were taking steps, for example travel bans, it was already too late."

You can watch the full interview with Doctors Pate and Epperly on Viewpoint this Sunday at 9 a.m. here on Idaho's NewsChannel 7.

On his edition of Viewpoint, Dr. Pate and Dr. Epperly talk in-depth about what worked and what didn't in the pandemic response, the effects political polarization had on the response and their recommendations for handling a possible future pandemic.

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