A $2 million collaborative effort between Resort Tax and community foundations helps secure urgent medical equipment

A classic debate of philosphy: do the times define the person or does the person define the times?

Big Sky, known for big skiing, is also known for leaders. Instead of being blindsided by COVID-19 developments, Big Sky’s leadership has been quietly working hard for some time. That foresight is allowing quick and decisive action.

Last week, $1 million was allocated by Big Sky Resort Area District (Resort Tax) for the emergency response to COVID-19 via unanimous board approval. Shortly after the conclusion of that meeting, it was announced that an additional $1 million would be added to the COVID-19 relief fund thanks to Yellowstone Club Community Foundation, Moonlight Community Foundation and Spanish Peaks Community Foundation.

The $2 million initiative will provide funding “to assist the Big Sky Medical Center... and mitigate social and economic impacts,” according to a press release.

Over 20 people attended that first remote Resort Tax meeting via RingCentral and heard the board members deep dive into the nitty gritty of funding, urging fiscal responsibility while understanding the importance of quick action.

$500,000 was earmarked to go to Big Sky Medical Center.

“We have been working with the community foundations to purchase eight ventilators,” Board chair Kevin Germain said, explaining that five will be for the Bozeman area and three specifically for Big Sky.

Loren Bough with the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation has been working very closely with Bozeman Health, Germain noted.

“Luckily we put those orders [for ventilators] in early, and we have a guarantee of within two weeks,” he said. “Another need is an analyzer: one could live in Big Sky Medical Center for very neartime [COVID-19 test] results. We have a four room hospital and there are four unfinished rooms.”

The money that is left after the purchase of equipment will be used to make those four additional hospital rooms available for use in the case of a COVID-19 surge.

The remaining funding will go toward a slew of other emergency community efforts, from helping the Big Sky Community Food Bank to working with Women In Action in funding mental health efforts.

A two person Resort Tax subcommittee approval will be required for the completion of requests.

Also, has been established in an effort to understand community needs and encourage communication. Updates from many community organizations can be found there.

The latest Resort Tax meeting hosted community leaders from across the spectrum discussing preparation efforts:

Taylor Rose, Director of Clinical Services & Operations at Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center (BHBSMC): Current evidence suggests COVID-19 transmission in Big Sky, Rose explained. Gallatin County had 16 confirmed cases at the time of the call, with three having ties to Big Sky, which makes the BHBSMC’s procurement of additional ventilators in the next 12-14 days and COVID-19 test analyzers, which are delayed by national demand, even more important. Healthcare officials in Big Sky are preparing to transition from a containment approach to mitigating transmission and stress the importance of “social distancing and hygiene, including regular and thorough hand washing; visitor restrictions and screening are in place.” BHBSMC is confident in facility and staff abilities to adequately treat patient needs, as there are reduced volumes of trauma patients since the resort has closed.

Interim Chief Greg Meegard, Big Sky Fire Department (BSFD): urges the Big Sky populace to take this seriously.

Sergeant Brandon Kelley, Gallatin County Sheriff ’s Office (GCSO): The sheriff ’s department is fully staffed and working to distribute masks and hand sanitizers to take people into custody. GCSO is also segregating the jail on health needs-basis to mitigate spread and also plans on releasing a large number of misdemeanor offenders to reduce potential exposure while in custody.

Sara Gaither, Program Coordinator of Big Sky Community Food Bank (BSCFB): The food bank has increased service days, encourages social distancing with a drive-up service and is experiencing nearly double the demand compared to typical
off season numbers. The food bank is helping people who have never needed assistance in the past and she anticipates growth in this demographic. BSCFB needs immediate funding for food orders.

Candace Carr Strauss, CEO of Big Sky Chamber of Commerce (BSCC) & Visit Big Sky (VBS): Indefinite closures of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks expected to impact local businesses in the shoulder season. BSCC and VBS are working closely with local businesses, restaurants and food purveyors to provide community members with accurate business hours and available services. BSCC has also compiled business, financial recovery, public health, medical, food and community assistance, mental health, tourism and community update resources for members of the community and business owners at communityupdates. BSCC is also working with the BSRAD for financial assistance for local small businesses.

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