Lone Peak High School recently saw its first cases of COVID-19, a few of which were associated with the varsity volleyball team. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

COVID in the community

Strategic testing and planning helped limit spread in Lone Peak High School

As COVID-19 case numbers surge all over the county, Big Sky proves no exception. Gallatin City-County Health Department contract tracing in the area has led to two week quarantines and an impact on the high school. Lone Peak High School’s (LPHS) varsity volleyball team’s quarantine ends Oct. 24th.

Conversations are ongoing between LPHS athletic director John Hannahs and the Montana High School Association as to how the games missed due to COVID-19 quarantine will shape the girls’ previously perfect season. The silver lining, though, is the girls will be out of quarantine in time to compete in districts.

Tests provided to the school district by the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation assisted in mitigation of the spread.

“We have these tests and we are using them strategically to keep the school community safe. We tested and found out about the first confirmed case on Tuesday and the county went to work on Wednesday first thing,” BSSD superintendent Dustin Shipman said.

He noted the district was well prepared and anticipatory of having cases. Things like good social distancing, masking, and seating charts helped mitigate the spread within the school all according to the school’s current learning model.

“The process worked as it's supposed to work. Less than 20 people have been quarantined thus far,” he said.

All the measures that have been emphasized the last six to eight months are really important right now, Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley noted.

Contact tracing is proving challenging as case numbers climb.

“We’re under pretty high stress right now with 40, 50, 60 cases a day we are doing well finding close contacts,” he said, but also noted the health department staff are unable to do the kinds of expansive investigations possible when the caseload is less. “It’s a harder job to limit spread when you have this many cases.”

Some of those cases now involve the population most vulnerable to the virus – people in long term care facilities.

“We have seven long term care facilities where we have cases,” he said. The reason those cases exist is because people who work in those facilities live in the community. So, the best way to protect them is to limit community spread.

“We need your help interrupting the spread of the virus by social distancing, avoiding crowds, washing your hands, staying at home when you’re sick and wearing face coverings,” Kelley said.

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