Covid-19 Vaccines:  Get the Facts 

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Anyone who can read or hear now knows that vaccines for the Covid-19 virus are becoming available.  Locally, many healthcare workers have already received the first of the two-shot vaccine.  This vaccine is likely the best hope for ending the pandemic.  But as availability for the vaccine increases, so do myths and skepticism The information below is published by the Mayo Clinic to help separate fact and fiction.  

Myth:  The COVID-19 vaccine will alter my DNA. 

Fact: The first vaccines to reach the market are mRNA vaccines.  According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines work by instructing cells in the body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response.  Injecting MRNA into your body will not interact or do anything to the DNA of your cells.  Human cells break down and get rid of the mRNA soon after they have finished using the instructions  

Myth:  The COVID-19 vaccine is not safe because it was rapidly developed and tested. 

Fact: Many pharmaceutical companies invested significant resources into quickly developing a vaccine for COVID-19 because of the impact of the pandemic However, companies did NOT bypass safety protocols and did not neglect adequate testing New technology has enabled companies to develop the vaccine much more quickly than previous vaccines have been developed.  The safety of the vaccine is closely monitored by the CDC and the FDA 

Myth:  The COVID-19 vaccine was developed as a way to control the general population either through microchip tracking or nano transducers in our brains.   

Fact: There is no vaccine “microchip,” and the vaccine will not track people or gather personal information into a database.  This myth started after comments made by Bill Gates about a digital certificate of vaccine records.  This does not refer to a microchip. In fact, the technology Gates was referring to has nothing to do with the development, testing, or distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Myth:  There are severe side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Fact: There are short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury.  The early phase studies of the vaccine show that it is safe.  About 15% of people develop short-lived symptoms at the site of the injection.  50% develop reactions which are primarily headache, chills, fatigue or muscle pain or fever lasting for a day or two.  Keep in mind that these side effects are indicators that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and are common when receiving vaccines. 

More information can be found at  

Coping Tools for Happy Holidays During a Pandemic 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the country is experiencing a resurgence of COVID-10 infections. A recommendation has given to keep gatherings small and travel only as necessary.  With the holidays approaching, this can leave many feeling lonely and fearful.  The lead therapist at the Sharp Mesa Vista Post-Traumatic Stress disorder and Trauma Recovery Program, Kim Eisenberg, suggests that we find tangible and realistic ways to have meaningful experiences this year, even if we can’t be surrounded physically by those with whom we normally celebrate. “We are lifted up and out of our own suffering when we do things that are helpful to others,” she said.   Ms. Eisenberg suggests finding some meaningful service to offset some of the loneliness and isolation.  She says others would benefit by remembering the 4 M’s: Mindfulness, Meaningful Connection, Movement, and Mastery.   


Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention and working to stay focused in the present moment. It includes self-care, which involves not letting our minds get side-tracked by strong emotions.  If anxiety starts to set in, practice deep-breathing and take time to see clearly the situation.  Mindfulness helps us know how best to proceed with compassion towards ourselves and others.   

Meaningful Connection 

Every single person needs connection and needs to be known.  A meaningful connection includes being emotionally vulnerable and open with someone, showing them affection and receiving it in return.  People love to know that someone cares. We need to meaningfully connect in marriage, friendship, and other relationships with our children and neighbors.  This can happen by text, email, phone call, mail, or video chats.   Reach out when you want to connect, check in on someone you care about.  Most people have the desire to connect meaningfully.  If you haven’t found someone who does, keep looking! 


Any type of movement or stretching that you can do in the comfort of your home or yard, helps alleviate negative feelings and emotions.  It improves balance, coordination and flexibility, increases oxygen to the brain, and decreases risk of osteoporosis.   


Don’t forget brain health.  Taking care of your brain is just as important as taking care of your body.  Try your hand at puzzles, word searches, crosswords, memorizing, and other brain games.  These activities will help stimulate attention, verbal fluency, memory, and other cognitive functions.   


Medicare Annual Part D Open Enrollment 

Fall is a time of change.  Most people love watching the leaves change color and the beauty that nature displays during this time of year.  Some changes are less exhilarating.  One of those kinds of changes could apply to your Medicare drug plan, which could be quite exciting, depending on the amount of money you could save.  

October 15th -December 7th is the annual open enrollment for Part D. For Medicare beneficiaries this means: 

_-Those who are already enrolled in a drug plan can check to see if all of their medications will still be covered under their current plan in 2021 and if that plan is still the least expensive option. Plans can, and do, change their drug formularies from year to year.  

-Even if your plan’s formulary doesn’t change and your drugs are still covered, you could experience a substantial increase in premium. When calculating your drug costs, you should consider premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for the year. 

-People who have never enrolled in a drug plan have the chance to enroll.*  If you enroll in Part D for the first time during this open enrollment period, your plan will be effective beginning January 1st, 2021.  Exceptions to this coverage date would be if the person is new to Medicare and is enrolling in a drug plan during their initial enrollment period.  In that case Medicare Part D would begin on the first day of the month after enrollment.  (For instance, if you are new to Medicare and enroll in a drug plan in October, your coverage would begin on November 1st.) 

-Although Medicare Advantage Plans are not available in several counties throughout the country (Bear Lake County is one of these), people who have Advantage plans can change during this open enrollment if they so choose.  (Much of the Medicare advertising you see on TV applies to Medicare Advantage Plans, not traditional Medicare). 

State Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) are uniquely trained to answer Medicare questions and help beneficiaries during enrollment periods.  Advisors help navigate the different drug plans and tailor them to the individual.  This includes considering all options for acquiring prescription drugs. SHIBA advisors make no commissions, and give free, un-biased advice to beneficiaries.  The locally state-certified SHIBA advisor is Kim Hulme, who can be reached at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital at 208.847.0949.   


*If you didn’t sign up for Part D when you were first eligible, you may have to pay a penalty on your premium, which is 1% of the national base premium for every month you could have had coverage. 


Dry Eye Syndrome

From the Mayo Clinic

Dry eyes is a common condition that occurs when your tears can’t provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Dry eyes can be uncomfortable, even painful.  Signs and symptoms include:  a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes, sensitivity to light, redness, a sensation that something is in your eye, difficulty with night driving, watery eyes (which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes), and blurred vision or eye fatigue.


Your tears are a mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus.  This mixture helps make the surface of your eyes smooth and clear.  It also protects your eyes from infection.  Common causes of decreased tear production include:


Aging   – Medical conditions such as: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjorgren’s syndrome, thyroid disorders, and vitamin A deficiency.

Some medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and drugs used for high blood pressure, birth control, and Parkinson’s disease.

Wind, smoke, or dry air can cause increased tear evaporation.  So can blinking less often, which tends to occur when you are concentrating, for example, while reading, driving, or working at a computer.


For most people with occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, it’s enough to regularly use over-the-counter eyedrops (artificial tears).  Sometimes other treatment is necessary, depending on what is causing your dry eyes.  In some cases, treating an underlying health issue can help clear up the signs and symptoms of dry eyes. This may mean simply changing one of your medications.  Treatment could be as involved as surgery of the eyelids.


There are a number of prescription medications used to treat dry eyes, including those that reduce inflammation of the eyelid or cornea and tear-stimulating drugs.  There are also various procedures used to alleviate dry eyes, such as closing your tears ducts to prevent tear loss,  and unblocking oil glands.


Some people find relief from dry eyes using non-prescription products or even home remedies.  These could include eyedrops, ointments, or gels.  Daily fish oil supplements seem to relieve dry eye syndrome for some.


Talk with your doctor about your dry eyes.  Tell him about all the symptoms you are experiencing, as there may be an underlying condition that needs to be addressed.


7 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Your immune system includes T cells, which attack other, illness-causing cells. They’re able to “remember” an invader, then defend against it better later. When you are older, you make fewer T cells, and most vaccines require new T cells to work. Not only do you make fewer T cells, but the ones you have don’t communicate with each other as well as they once did. Follow the medically recommended suggestions below to help strengthen your immune system.
Get a flu vaccination
An annual flu vaccination can reduce your risk of infection by 40 to 60 percent. It can take up to two weeks for the flu vaccine to be effective. The vaccine works by stimulating your immune system to create antibodies, which can protect an infection. The flu virus changes from year to year, so you’ll need to repeat the vaccination each year.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is another way to boost your immune system so that it can fight off viruses. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes a healthy immune system. Avoid sugars, fat, and processed foods. If you feel that you’re not getting enough nutrients, ask your doctor about taking a vitamin supplement.
Get Active
Exercise increases blood circulation and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Aim for 30 minutes three days a week.
Lower Your Stress Level
Chronic stress can affect your immune system, decreasing its effectiveness. Chronic stress lowers your immune system response.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep deprivation also reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. Sleep becomes more important with age because it also helps improve brain function, concentration, and memory.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being physically active and eating a healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and can help reduce inflammation.
Spend Time Outdoors
Vitamin D helps strengthen the immune system. Spending time outdoors allows your body to convert vitamin D from sun exposure. You may want to take a supplement if you don’t spend enough time outdoors.

Masks Matter!

Here are FIVE myths about mask-wearing!

With the outbreak of the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 there has been a lot of confusion and controversy about the use of masks to slow the spread of the disease. It is easy to see where the confusion came from, as in the beginning, the CDC was recommending we did not have to wear masks and they were to be saved for health care professionals and first-line responders. However, with emerging information and data this far into the pandemic, we can now separate fact from fiction about the use of masks as a defense against the disease. The following information is from the Cleveland Clinic and debunks the most common myths surrounding the use of masks during this pandemic.
Myth #1: Wearing a cloth mask is no use.
Wearing a homemade cloth face mask is an easy way you can help protect others in your family and community. Covid-19 is thought to mainly be spread through viral droplets that come out of people’s nose or mouth when they cough, sneeze or talk. Cloth masks act as a barrier to keep large droplets from spewing out and into the air, allowing someone else to breathe them in and become infected. Studies show that cloth masks reduce the number of microorganisms that someone releases into the air.
Myth #2: If I’m not sick, I don’t need to wear a mask.
Many people can be infected and not show any symptoms. These people unknowingly pass on the virus to others when they cough, sneeze, or talk. Because we don’t know for sure who is infected, it is safest for us all to wear masks. It’s an act that contributes to the greater public good.
Myth #3: If I wear a mask, I don’t need to social distance or stay home.
Masks are just one piece of the strategy for preventing the spread of coronavirus. It’s important to follow all of the recommended steps including practicing proper social distancing ( 6 feet apart), not gathering in large groups, washing hands, and not touching your face (unless, of course, you have washed your hands.)
Myth #4: My mask just needs to cover my mouth
A mask should cover your mouth and nose. It should be snug, but comfortable and you should be able to breathe without restriction.
Myth #5: Wearing a mask will make me sick.
Social media is rampant with posts that promote the idea that wearing a mask can cause you to rebreathe the carbon dioxide you exhale, and it will make you sick. This is false information and is very unlikely to happen from wearing a cloth mask.

Volunteer of the Year, Scholarships, Thrift Store Changes & other Hospital Auxiliary Updates

Typically, volunteer appreciation is celebrated with a banquet in April, but due to COVID-19 restrictions and precautions Bear Lake Memorial Hospital wants to now acknowledge its Auxiliary and volunteers for their efforts this past year. There are over 100 volunteer who serve in various capacities throughout the hospital and within the Auxiliary.

Each volunteer has been given certificates of appreciation. There are 13 individuals who have donated over 500+ hours of their time and four individuals with over 1000 hours.  There was a total of 27,650 combined volunteer hours for 2019-2020.

The volunteer members award the honor of Auxiliary Volunteer of the Year to an individual whom auxiliary members vote as being the best representative of their organization during the past year. This year is Taelor Crockett. She has donated countless hours to the auxiliary on behalf of the community members. She is often found helping at events and in the Auxiliary’s Thrift Store. She has been with the organization for 5 years and donated countless hours of her time.

This year the group chose two high school scholarship winners. The scholarships are based on the students overall volunteering experience throughout their high school career. Lily Richardson from Cokeville High School and Linda Wilkes from Bear Lake High School have each been awarded $1000 to further their education.

The Thrift Store has been closed because of the risk posed to the public and the volunteers, but has now reopened with special donation hours. Appointments must be made for any furniture or large donations by calling 208-847-4445. Otherwise bagged and boxed donations will be accepted Tuesday through Saturday 8am – 3pm. No Mattresses/Box Springs, TVs, or broken items are accepted. Estates and yard sale donations must be carefully sorted prior to donating. The property is under surveillance and no dumping is permitted. Regular store hours are Wednesdays– Fridays 10am through 5pm and 10am – 2pm Saturdays. Everyone is asked to wear a mask to protect everyone that works and shops at the Thrift Store.

The Thrift Store provides Christmas vouchers and care totes for all the schools including Cokeville.  The Christmas vouchers allow families in need to receive merchandise from the Thrift Store.  The Care Totes provide warm clean clothes to children in need who are identified by their teachers.

The Auxiliary supports the hospital’s health care foundation by providing volunteer workers for their activities including the Salmon BBQ & Run, Raspberry Days Booth/Parade, County Fair Booth, the Golf “Fore” Health tournament, and any other activity needing workers.

They continue to provide comfort care to Bear Lake Memorial’s patients and residents by helping fall risk patients, giving social and spiritual support for the lonely, giving transportation to doctor’s appointments, picking up medication and groceries, and assisting with bingo games.

This group also assists the hospital, skilled nursing facility, and manor by providing a cafeteria cashier, daily snack cart, assistance with medical records, patient feeding assistance, music therapy and social engagement. They provided calendars for the Brake for Breakfast Breast Cancer Awareness Event in October, tray favors and Christmas stockings to residents at the nursing home and manor, provided breakfast for the Golf “Fore” Health tournament.  Their biggest event the annual Snowball Dance fundraiser held in February. Money raised at this event benefits the hospitals ER renovations and MRI Suite coming in 2021.  Their efforts are and will always be appreciated. If you are interested in being a part of this organization, please contact Lott Crockett at 208-847-4445.

Tools to Thrive During COVID

We are living in unique times. Amidst social distancing, abundant information (good and bad) about the coronavirus, and changes in our daily living patterns, the greatest toll can be on our mental well-being. For social people, not being able to connect with friends and loved ones in the usual way can erode feelings of well-being and interfere with one’s sense of security. Connecting with others and creating healthy routines are important steps to take to help stay on top mentally.
Connect With Others—
Normally, Americans spend 2.5 hours per day watching television and only half an hour per day socializing. Because of the pandemic and social distancing orders, even less time is spent socializing so it is important to find other ways to connect. Phone calls, texting, social media, emails, and video chats are all ways of keeping in touch with others. Try taking a walk around your neighborhood. It’s possible to chat with neighbors from a distance and still feel connected. Even if you think your situation is fine, there may be someone who could benefit from hearing from you. It’s the connections we make with others that enrich our lives and get us through tough times. Try to spend at least one-half hour a day connecting with others.
Create Healthy Routines
Studies show that people with more daily routines have lower levels of distress when facing problems with their health or negative life events. When it comes to diet, sleep, and exercise, having good, strong routines is linked to improved mental and physical health By creating routines, we organize our days in such a way that taking care of tasks and ourselves becomes a pattern that makes it easier to get things done without having to think about them.
We don’t all have the same schedules or responsibilities and some of us struggle with certain parts of daily life more than others, so it is important to create a routine that’s right for you. All healthy routines should include eating a nutrition-rich diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Your routine may not look the same every day, but establishing a pattern will help keep you motivated and grounded.
If your schedule is non-existent and you don’t really have a routine, start small. Pick one small thing each week to work on. It could be adding something new and positive, or cutting out a bad habit. Small changes add up.
Think about things you do during the day that aren’t so healthy and swap them for better behaviors. For example, if you feel sluggish in the afternoon and usually reach for a sugary snack for a pick-me-up, try going for a walk to get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing.
Make time for the things you enjoy, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. Little habits are key to strong mental health.

Top 20 Award give to BLMH in Quality

Bear Lake Memorial Hospital in Montpelier, ID was recently named one of the Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals for Best Practices in Quality out of over 1300 facilities in the country by The National Rural Health Association.  Bear Lake Memorial Hospital has been recognized as one of the Top 20 Critical Access Hospital in the past and is being recognized again this year for achieving success in Quality. This premier hospital performance rating is based on the rank across the five categories of Hospital Compare Process of Care measures. Those measures include Timely and Effective Care, Complications and Deaths, Unplanned Hospital Visits, Psychiatric unit services, and Payment/Value of Care.


Hospital Administrator Michael Blauer states “Providing the highest-quality care has always been a priority for Bear Lake Memorial Hospital.  We are proud that our efforts are reflected in the data the National Rural Health Association reviews and we are pleased to receive this highly-regarded recognition.”

The NRHA is a national nonprofit membership organization with more than 20,000 members. The association’s mission is to provide leadership on rural health issues. NRHA membership consists of a diverse collection of individuals and organizations, all of whom share the common bond of an interest in rural health.


“NRHA is committed to ensuring our members have the best information to manage their hospitals,” says Brock Slabach, NRHA membership services senior vice president. “We’re pleased to recognize the accomplishments of these rural hospitals.”

Stress Can Be Necessary and Your Friend – Wayne Brown, MSW, LMSW

“Very often I hear people saying, ‘ just want to have a stress-free life’. This got me to thinking about that and what it would actually mean. For myself I think if I had a life that was stress free it may not be all it is cracked up to be. Some of the reasons are, there is often stress present in my life is due to deadlines, important obligations, wanting to perform well or the identified need of getting something thought to be beneficial in place. All of these and a number of other stress provoking things in my world are a big part of what gives my life purpose, meaning and value. I believe that if you are living a life that has purpose, meaning and value to you, it is going to come with stress.

I also got thinking that often times we are confronted with stress that is caused by change. Sometimes these changes are desired and sometimes change is brought upon us by some specific situation or occurrence. We either accept and adapt to these changes or we reject and resist them. The results can be a beneficial one of learning and growth or one that at the least causes irritation and discomfort. Sometimes stress no matter the source can be crippling and cause us significant impairment to our way life. I understand that not all stress is the same and neither are the people experiencing them.

I merely got thinking about how I respond to stress and how my own perception about stress and even change influences how it affects me. When I thought again about the statement, ‘I just want a stress-free life’.  I think it gives stress a bad name, stress serves a purpose. Is it the pain from resisting the stress or not having a way to cope with it that I find the most unpleasant? Like the author Charlotte Kasl said, ‘It is our attachment to be free of pain that creates suffering’. I found a great TED talk video by Kelly McGonigal who talks about something very similar with stress as the focus, instead of pain. How much of our resistance to stress is creating our suffering, not the stress itself? Please if you would like to hear what I believe contains some of the answers check out her talk and hear what Kelly McGonigal has to say about stress.”

Wayne Brown MSW/LMSW

Kelly McGonigal TED Talk – Link

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