Coronavirus preparation: do not panic and be kind
As of Wednesday, March 18, there are two cases of Coronavirus in Gallatin County: a man in his 40’s and a man in his 20’s, according to the Gallatin City-County Health Department. There are three more cases in Yellowstone, Silver Bow and Lewis and Clark Counties and two cases in Missoula County.
Now deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization and a National Emergency, a State of Emergency was declared by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
Local events have been postponed or cancelled, from the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District board meeting to the remaining two winter season Warren Miller Performing Arts Center shows, to the 40th Annual Pie Auction, which has shifted to online bidding. The Moonlight Music Festival is on hold as of Wednesday, March 18.
Social distancing becomes increasingly important in stopping the spread of the disease, which can have an incubation period of up to 14 days. There have been an estimated 50 people tested in the state, with all tests being negative, according to health department officials. This delay of introduction of the disease to the Treasure State allows those charged with the health and safety of the populace to properly prepare.
“The focus remains on slowing down the spread of the virus to give our healthcare system time to continue preparations, build supplies, and better understand the virus and how to treat it,” a Gallatin City-County Health Department press release stated. “Every day the virus can be slowed allows time for our health care system and public health to do this work.”
A press conference was recently held at the Gallatin County Courthouse Community Room as state, county and local officials continued efforts to address the virus.
It was emphasized throughout the meeting that this collaborative effort to address COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus is an extension of a longstanding relationship between entities. Speakers included: Matt Kelley, Gallatin City-County Health Department health officer; Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin; Belgrade Police Department Chief EJ Clark; Dr. Eric Lowe with Bozeman Health Emergency Services, Pat Lonergan with Gallatin County Emergency Management; Bozeman School District Superintendent Bob Connors; Cindy Spinelli, communicable disease program manager with Bozeman Health; Bozeman Fire Chief Josh Waldo; and Birgen Knoff, system director of clinical practice with Bozeman Health.
Also noted at the meeting was the fact that this is a dynamic, constantly changing situation.
Further information on how it is being addressed by local businesses and organizations to follow.
Gallatin Rest Home
The rest home will be RESTRICTING visitors – including anyone who does not live or work in the facility like family members, volunteers, vendors and medical providers. Anyone going into the facility will be screened. According to a press release, that screening involves taking temperatures and asking about international travel in the last 14 days, about any fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath or if there has been any contact with someone who has the infection within the last 14 days. Visitors who fail the screening will be asked to leave.
“We know our population is at the highest risk and I ask each and every one of you to help us keep your loved ones as safe as possible,” the release said. “Please relay this information to other family members, friends, clergy, etc., and consider other ways to visit your loved ones, phone, email, text, and social media if possible.”
Facility management and staff encourage frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizers and for visitors to limit what surfaces are touched and also note that personal protective equipment is “difficult to get at this time and is for emergencies only.”
The visitation policy is likely to change as the situation changes. (Updated March 15)
Both Mountain Pearls Dentistry and Schmieding Dental Group are following the American Dental Association Recommendation and suspending routine patient care.
Schmieding Dental Group will only be seeing emergencies and follow ups on previously started work “for at least three weeks.”
“We will still be available by phone to assist with billing, tax, or insurance matters. Only isolated cases of major dental trauma or life- threatening dental infections will be considered for appointments,” a Mountain Pearl Dentistry Facebook post said. “We will be contacting each and every patient with a scheduled appointment starting Monday, March 16, 2020.”
The post said the business that they are trying to be a part of the solution by encouraging social distancing and refraining from social gatherings that are not absolutely essential. (Updated March 19)
Big Sky Community Library
The library is cancelling all programs including storytime and/or meetings.
As of Monday, March 16 the library will be closed until further notice, following the school board decision to close Big Sky School District facilities.
“We appreciate your patience and all the safety factors that have been taken into account with the decision for this closure. Any updates will be posted to our website,” library director Kathy House wrote in an update.
Ebooks, audiobooks and movies are available at www.bigskylibrary.com with resources like OverDrive, Kanopy, TumbleBooks and even Rosetta Stone. An account may need to be set- up via an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
No overdue files will be assessed during this time, House wrote, and any questions or concerns should be communicated by email. (Updated March 19)
United States Postal Service (USPS)
The post office continues with normal operations, but with temporary suspension of the "guarantee on Priority Mail Express International destined for China and Hong Kong, which has been effective since Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, due to widespread airline cancellations and restrictions into this area. In addition, customers may see delays in mail and packages destined to China as well as from China,” the post office website said.
It was also explained that the CDC believes there is likely very low risk that COVID-19 can be spread from products or packaging shipped from China, because of poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces. “Also, according to the CDC, there currently is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods; and there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.”
The USPS website said the organization is monitoring developments with the coronavirus and is following CDC and public health department strategies and measures. (Updated March 15)
Big Sky Community Food Bank
The food bank will be expanding hours to include Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The lobby will be closed to the general public as the organization transitions to pre-packed food boxes to “increase social distancing for the health and safety of customers, volunteers, and staff,” according to a press release.
Beginning March 17, a pick up for the pre-packaged food boxes will be implemented. The boxes will contain a set menu or a least a week’s supply of food per household. Households will be allowed to pick up a box twice each month. There will be no substitutions of food at this time. A drive-through service will be offered where food boxes will be distributed from the patio area of the food bank, under the awning.
“Those quarantined, self-quarantined and/or of suspicious health status will be allowed to order a food box dropped off to their home,” per the release. Those home drops will take place on Fridays. “We will leave the box outside your door and will not make any other contact with you.”
Produce, dairy and household necessity vouchers for use at local grocery stores will also be offered.
There is currently no need for volunteers since there has been an “outpouring of support” from the Big Sky community. However, donors are needed. To donate, please visit bigskyfoodbank.org
“We are coordinating with partners within Big Sky including the school district, human resources, resort tax, and grocery
stores to meet the challenges of our community, anticipating an increase in need as people lose hours at work and/or endure a 14 day quarantine,” an earlier press release said. (Updated March 19)
Big Sky Grocery Stores
Roxy’s, The Hungry Moose and Country Market
Quantities of paper and cleaning products in local stores vary depending on the amount delivered. Shortages developed in some cases and stores are implementing increased hygiene practices.
“We are over- ordering on everything in anticipation,” Josh Treasure, general manager at Roxy’s, said on March 13.
Toilet paper purchases are limited to two individual rolls ($1/roll), disinfectant wipes to one container and paper towels to one roll per customer at Roxy’s. These products are not available on shelves and customers must ask staff at check out if they require those items.
Inventory at Roxy’s has improved as they were able to get higher allocated amounts from distributors. Hand sanitizer will be restocked on Tuesday, March 24.
The Hungry Moose has seen shortages of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, bleach and bleach wipes. Toilet paper and bleach wipes are limited to one or two purchases per customer. Slight restrictions are placed on canned goods, frozen items and pasta to counter over-buying.
Similar circumstances are demonstrated at the Country Market. Supplies are available, but they are unable to get more.
For those needing extra assistance, the Country Market offers a delivery service. If interested, call 406-995-4636 or 406-581-5360. Orders can be placed over the phone or via email (email@example.com) and door delivery is offered between 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Sysco sent out a 9-page list to stores consisting of items discontinued due to the coronavirus. This includes ground beef, chicken, eggs, pasta and pasta sauce. In some cases, these quantities may be scarce until October.
The Country Market only received 300 items from a truck delivery on Tuesday, March 17 out of 900 items ordered. “The warehouse and delivery trucks are all caught up and they’re actually going to be here on time,” Megan Rhead, Country Market employee, said.
A truck delivery over the weekend filled many empty shelves. The Country Market is enforcing a two-of-the-same product limit for all items except produce, which can be purchased in quantities of ten. Toilet paper is sold by the roll for $1.49.
Hand baskets, carts, check stands and handles are disinfected hourly at Roxy’s. Employees and managers sign off on a list verifying the sanitation has been completed. Employees are wearing gloves while working and customers are encouraged to do the same when handling products. Seven automatically-dispensed hand sanitizing stations are available in the store. Sneeze guards, transparent screens to be placed between cashier and customer, are being installed.
“We are going to close down our salad bar just for the sake of the openness to that,” general manager Quin McNamara at the Hungry Moose said. As of March 19, deli orders are available by call-in only. Menus are posted outside the store and online, and callers will be notified by phone call when their order is ready. “We’re doing a lot more prepackaged food in our central kitchen,” McNamara said, noting the central kitchen is not visited by customers.
Employees are disinfecting high-touch surfaces--cooler handles, bathroom doors, light switches-- hourly and bleach wipes are placed by carts for customer use.
The Moose closed foot traffic on March 23 and expects this to continue for a couple of weeks. “We would love it if customers could put orders through online for groceries,” Aaron Yoder, manager at the Moose, said. Deli and grocery orders can be placed at hungrymoose.com. There is a $35 minimum for delivery orders and no minimum for deli orders.
Free sample offerings have ceased at the Market and employees are wiping down surfaces and carts with more frequency. Employees make use of alcohol spray to disinfect their hands after money transactions. Doors and freezer handles are disinfected every hour, countertops every half hour, and employees are wearing gloves while interacting with customers and stocking shelves.
Staff-wise, the Moose is encouraging employees to stay home if exhibiting any symptoms. Rent payments are relaxed and food will be delivered to employee housing if needed. McNamara defined this as a way to avoid people ‘powering through a sickness.’
“The team’s doing a really good job. We have nobody who’s sick,” Treasure said. A protocol is in place for what steps to take if an employee is to become sick and Treasure is monitoring daily updates from the County Health Department, the hospitals and the DCD.
Treasure urged people to buy what is necessary. He has seen entire cases of dried pasta go out the doors. “We gotta kind of be in this together,” he said. Effective Sunday March 29, Roxy's hours will update to 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. (Updated March 23)
Big Sky Resort Area District (Resort Tax)
(Updated March 15)
COVID-19 is hitting the United States at a busy time for Resort Tax, including numerous public meetings for appropriations, 1% Education Sessions, and Board Candidate forums. Board chair Kevin Germain said they are striving to utilize remote meeting technology to maintain a high level of public involvement.
Resort Tax staff will now be working remotely and available via email and phone Mon-Friday, 9.a.m. to 5 p.m.
Resort Tax is “actively preparing to support the potential impacts on Big Sky,” a press release stated.
“Now more than ever, it is paramount that we make strategic investments for our community. The District is coordinating with key partners to ensure Big Sky is poised to weather this storm. Our community has a long history of coming together during a time of need and this is no exception,” District Board Chair Kevin Germain said.
According to the release, collectors are still required to collect and continue to support the community helping collect dollars that fund critical community services. The FY21 application for Resort Tax funds is online and accessible for qualifying organizations. Emergency Appropriations are also being explored by the district to “ensure critical services keep each person in our community safe, healthy and supported.”
Germain noted that Resort Tax recognizes that there will be both short and long-term impacts from Covid-19.
“Our immediate attention is focused on ensuring the people of Big Sky have core needs supported and that emergency services have the means to do so,” he said. “It’s important that we work with partners to ensure Big Sky’s successful recovery of these impacts.”
Big Sky Medical Center
Emergency preparedness is an organization-wide effort Birgen Knoff, system director of clinical practice with Bozeman Health said. What is done in Bozeman is done in Big Sky – preparedness practices are standardized.
“As we look at preparedness in Bozeman, we do the same things for Big Sky at a scaled level. Understanding we are going to see surge volumes there from all of the travelers, we are prepared for those, but from a long-term perspective we see less patients in Big Sky than in Bozeman,” she said.
She further explained that Big Sky Medical Center has a number of people on the medical team who have been to the training at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters for the Center for Domestic Preparedness.
“That training is all about emergency preparedness and how we would be able respond to an incident,” she said, noting that president and administrator for Big Sky Medical Center as well as the nursing department manager and team leads have received that training.
Follow those CDC guidelines: make sure that people are washing their hands after they use the restroom, before and after they eat, anytime they cough or sneeze and practice that social distancing and follow those guidelines as recommended, Bozeman Health Public Information Officer Lauren Brendel said.
Bozeman Health Pharmacy at Big Sky is limiting patients to 90 day supplies of medications to make sure medicine is available for everyone, a pharmacy representative said Friday. (Updated March 15)
Gallatin City/County Health Department link here: http://lonepeaklookout.com/news/covid-19-gallatin-city-county-health-dep...
Big Sky School District link here: http://lonepeaklookout.com/news/covid-19-big-sky-school-district
Big Sky Resort link here: http://lonepeaklookout.com/news/covid-19-big-sky-resort