COVID-19 Gallatin City-County Health Department
Matt Kelley, Gallatin City-County Health Department health officer, kicked-off the press conference at the Gallatin County Courthouse Community Room on March 13 by running over some key points. These measures can protect you and others who may be more at-risk as we work to slow the spread of the disease.
1. Take care of yourself: wash hands, eat well, sleep, and stay home if you are sick, or have a cough or fever.
2. Practice social distancing, particularly if there are any underlying health conditions that might make you more susceptible to the illness.
“We recommend that you consider avoiding large crowds or places where you may be more likely to come into contact with someone who is carrying the virus,” a press release said. Still, the health department is not mandating cancellations or closures of gatherings at this time. However, the department is asking event organizers to consider postponements or cancellations when possible, “especially if the event brings people together in close quarters for a purpose that is non-essential.” The health department is receptive to helping organizers make those determinations. Individuals are urged to make intelligent decisions for themselves and their families about events they do attend.
3. Be kind and do not panic. Though timing is unknown, a local case is likely. Most who catch the virus will only develop mild symptoms and children have shown incredible resilience with it, Kelley said. The reason children are generally not susceptible is still unknown. Individuals who are diagnosed with COVID-19 who have mild to moderate symptoms will be asked to isolate at home for 14 days, he explained. Household contacts will be asked to quarantine for 14 days as well. Those with more serious symptoms are to call their healthcare providers.
“It is important as we move through this that we think about the impact we are having on others. This is important. This is serious, but this is something we are going to come through and it is important that we do it in a way that is compassionate, and we do it in a way that is smart,” Kelley said. “As much as we want to talk about tests and masks and the barricades, there are some really important things we can do to take care of ourselves, take care of our kids and take care of our communities.”
Testament to the ability to prepare for the crisis, the health department is kindly asking for potential quarantine sites. As most people who are diagnosed will only have mild symptoms and be asked to quarantine for the allotted 14 days to limit spread of the disease, they are seeking hotel rooms or houses where people could be comfortable for 14 days, have access to their own bathroom and have communication with the outside world.
“If you have access to a facility that might fit this description and have a willingness to discuss renting it or making it available for this purpose, we ask you to call the health department at 582-3120,” the release said. This is in stark juxtaposition to what just occurred in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom released an executive order that allows the state to commandeer hotels and medical facilities. That kind of urgency has yet to hit Montana. Kelley said that there is discussion at the state level of potentially using Fort Harrison Army Base in Helena as a quarantine facility, which would alleviate pressure throughout the state. That communication is ongoing, and no determination has been made.
Also, the health department is doing assessments of assisted living facilities and encouraging visitor restriction of those facilities.