Before 2020, most of the BYU-Idaho community had probably never even heard of Eastern Idaho Public Health (EIPH), but BYU-Idaho has worked with the state health district for years. In fulfilling his role as BYU-Idaho’s Safety Officer, Eric Harmston has built the university’s relationship with EIPH.
“In a pre-pandemic world, we would meet with EIPH to discuss any potential communicable diseases and to sit-in on any trainings they had for us,” Harmston said.
With COVID-19 escalating across the world this past March, resulting in the nation-wide shutdown, Harmston immediately reached out to EIPH to begin the university’s lengthy preparations for eventual reopening.
“EIPH has been extremely helpful regarding guidance and direction from the very beginning,” Harmston shared. “They have been key to making this large process more manageable and work so smoothly. They are willing to provide any information and answer any questions that we have, just as we are for them.”
Now, Harmston and others from campus administration meet with EIPH members each Wednesday for a weekly Zoom meeting to discuss current trends and discuss what the university can do to assist in preventing further spread of COVID-19.
One area both the university and EIPH pay close attention to is any time gatherings happen. For any activity on campus, a proposal is brought forward by the department organizing the event. After the university reviews the safety procedures, the proposal is passed along to EIPH. Any variations to the activity in the future require an updated proposal.
“Everything we do, we take back to EIPH,” said University Resources Vice President Brett Cook.
“EIPH has been quite pleased with our efforts. They encourage us to have as many of our small gatherings on campus as possible. If we can provide several fun and safe activities in a controlled situation on campus, it’s a much better alternative than not providing any and leaving it to students to try and find entertainment that follows EIPH’s health guidelines.”
With the Fall 2020 Semester now in full swing, BYU-Idaho and EIPH are as observant as ever. “We’re watching how everything works very carefully to catch if there are any changes that need to be made,” Harmston said. “Very few changes have been needed so far, but we are learning as we go.”
The Active COVID-19 Cases Dashboard available at www.byui.edu/covid-19-updates is a new resource the university made available with EIPH’s help. It indicates the number of active COVID-19 cases among students, employees, citizens of Madison County, and EIPH’s total cases. The dashboard is updated every night. There is a small delay in the updates, as it depends on EIPH getting in contact with those who have been confirmed as having or those who have been exposed to COVID-19. However, the numbers are according to the most accurate data available.
“There are always a few people that don’t take it seriously or think this won’t bother them, and they’re the ones that everyone needs to help. We are in this together and no one is except,” Harmston said. “Everyone needs to follow the guidelines. If we do, we are going to go through this very, very welland very few will be affected. If we don’t, we have no promise.”