Governor declares emergency, orders schools closed

by The Associated Press
| March 19, 2020 10:03 AM

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on Sunday ordered public schools closed, nursing home visits drastically cut and recommended that public gatherings be limited to fewer than 50 people.

Bullock said in a statement the extraordinary measures are being taken in an effort to head off the coronavirus outbreak.

Friday, Montana became one of the last states to have a positive case of the virus, and there were six known cases in the state as of Sunday.

Bullock declared a state of emergency on Friday.

“Social distancing is one of the most important primary protective measures to flatten the curve of this virus,” Bullock said in a statement. “I cannot underscore the seriousness of following these measures to help our neighbors, friends, and families.”

There are six positive cases in the counties of Missoula, Gallatin, Yellowstone, Silver Bow and Lewis and Clark.

• The two Missoula cases include a woman in her 30s and a man in his 50s.

• The Gallatin patient is a male in their 40s.

• The Yellowstone patient is a female in their 50s.

• The Silver Bow patient is a male in their 50s.

• The Lewis and Clark patient is a male in their 50s.

One case included a part-time Montana resident who was diagnosed with the virus in Maryland. The person has not been in Montana since November 2019 and did not acquire the disease in Montana.

The vast majority of people infected recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three weeks to six weeks to recover.

The school closure went effect Monday and will last until March 27.

Schools are making arrangements to continue serving free meals to students who need them and make contingency plans for remote learning and other services if the break is extended.

The governor said Montana nursing homes will limit visitation to only certain compassionate care situations, such as end-of-life-care, and those people will be screened before being allowed entry.

Bullock also made a series of recommendations for social distancing, including capping public gatherings to 50 people. People 60 or older or with chronic health conditions shouldn’t participate in any public gatherings, especially those with more than 20 people, he said.

Parents should also avoid placing children into the care of people who are over 60.

In Mineral County, Health Department staff are monitoring the COVID-19 situation at the local, state, and national levels.

Staff are working with Mineral Community Hospital and Lab, clinics, schools, emergency medical services, first responders, law enforcement, daycares, businesses, and employers to ensure they have the most current information from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For updates on what is known about the virus, illness, and public health issues, please follow this link to the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and this link to the MT DPHHS

https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt.

For those whom do not have internet access contact the health department at 406-822-3564 for information.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services will be available to assist people with applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance Needy Families, and Medicaid from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 in Superior at the Mineral County Courthouse, 3rd floor. Bring proof of residency and income.

Here is the Center for Disease Control’s recommended preparation activities as follows.

Checklist for Individuals and Families

As a family, you can plan and make decisions now that will protect you and your family during a COVID-19 outbreak in your community.

Use this checklist to help you take steps to plan and protect the health of you and your family.

PLAN AND PREPARE

Create a household plan of action

• Consider members of the household that may be at greater risk such as older adults and people with severe chronic illnesses.

• Create a list of local organizations you and your household can contact in case you need access to information, healthcare services, support, and resources.

• Create an emergency contact list including family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, healthcare providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, and other community resources.

• Choose a room in your house that can be used to separate sick household members from others.

• Ask your neighbors what their plan includes.

Take everyday preventive actions

• Wash your hands frequently.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Be prepared if your child’s school or childcare facility is temporarily dismissed or for potential changes at your workplace.

TAKE ACTION

In case of an outbreak in your community, protect yourself and others:

• Stay home. Keep away from others that are sick and limit close contact with others as much as possible (6 feet). Speak to your healthcare provider if you develop fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

• If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs*:

- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

- New confusion or inability to arouse

- Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all-inclusive.

Please consult your medical provider for any other symptom that is severe or concerning.

Take additional precautions for those at highest risk, particularly older adults and those who have severe underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.

Consider staying at home and away from crowds if you or a family member are an older adult or have underlying health issues.

Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home.

When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick and limit close contact with others.

Practice good hand hygiene.

Take the following steps to help protect children:

• Notify your child’s school if your child becomes sick with COVID-19.

• Keep track of school dismissals in your community.

• Discourage children and teens from gathering in other public places.

IMPORTANT: Please plan and prepare. If you develop fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing and have traveled to an area with a known outbreak, or have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed or tested for COVID-19, call your local clinic or hospital immediately to discuss your symptoms and plan for how you will be seen.

For more information, contact Mineral County Health Department at 406-822-3564 or email Amy Lommen at alommen@co.mineral.mt.us