By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

VC Confirms Two More COVID-19 Cases

Health Officer: Infections Occurred Out of the Area, But Patients Have Returned

 


July 1 Update: Since the publication of this story, an additional lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 has been identified in Valley County. Case #4 is a male in his 30s who is not hospitalized and is isolating at home. The case was identified through contact tracing and had been undergoing quarantine. The individual does not have symptoms.

Valley County reported two lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 on June 28. Both cases affect Valley County residents currently in the county. According to county health officer Dr. Anne Millard, the two cases were infected outside the county before returning to the area, both show symptoms of the disease and went in immediately to be tested.

“I can tell you that the cases were out of county, and picked up the disease, and came back to the county,” said Millard in a Facebook live broadcast to residents in the afternoon hours of June 29.

The two cases come just over a week after the county reported its first affiliated case of coronavirus, which infected a resident that had contracted the virus outside the county and had not returned since. That individual has since recovered.


Among the two positive cases from Sunday is a Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital employee, according to a hospital press release. Millard confirmed a hospital employee was infected but stressed that the individual had not returned to work after contracting the virus out of county.

In the press release, FMDH added, “Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital reassures you that we continue to take all appropriate precautions to keep our community protected. We are safe, ready, and open to care for you. You are encouraged to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and wear a mask in public.”

Millard echoed the press release reiterating that the hospital is “probably one of the safest places in town” since everyone entering is screened, every occupant wears a mask and the staff is constantly taking measures to mitigate spread inside the facility.

With the confirmed presence of the virus in the county for the first time since the pandemic spread to the United States in February, Dr. Millard indicated the county was not preparing to take any further actions to limit the operation of businesses, groups or gatherings beyond what the Governor has put in place for the phased reopening of Montana.


After meeting with county commissioners on June 29, Millard said, “None of us [the commissioners or health department] want anything to be stopped or not running this summer, however, there are going to be some things that aren’t going to feel safe to people to be able to run.”

To increase the safety of events individuals should be adhering to mitigation measures to reduce the spread of the virus said Millard. She reiterated those measures multiple times in the broadcast, listing social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding crowds and washing hands regularly as key to stopping the spread and avoiding further impacts.

“I will say that as the weather gets warmer, I don’t want to wear my facemask either,” she said, “but I do it anyway because I know that what I am doing is protecting everybody else.” The health officer pointed out that there are places in the country that have made mask wearing mandatory due to its effectiveness, but that the county was not talking about making that move locally.

“There are a lot of people that just don’t wear masks,” said Millard, “they don’t want to, they don’t feel it’s necessary; something along those lines.” She stressed that residents should take those measures voluntarily to keep the spread of the virus locally under control and to avoid such orders in the future.

With summer approaching, Dr. Millard also addressed the fact that many activities, groups and gatherings are going to occur in the coming months. She stressed that all events must have 50 or fewer participants per state guidance and should adhere to social distancing and other measures for safety.


(To get help with planning safe events, event planners and organizers can call the health department at 228-6261 for more information.)

After four months with zero cases, the county had taken early measures to reduce public contact and slow the virus’ spread to the region. After weeks of closures and cancellations with no infections, the county began reopening in step with guidance and orders put in place by Governor Steve Bullock over the last month.

Since those measures have taken effect, the state has seen a spike in cases. On June 28, the state reported its largest jump in lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases at 56 total positive results. That bested the earlier record of 35 which occurred on both March 26 and June 24. The Governor attributed the recent spikes in cases to testing increased testing efforts. He did acknowledge that some of the continued spread was due to individuals not adhering to mitigation measures during the phased reopening period.

Asked what she expects for the future, Millard said she expects to see more positive cases in the county.

 

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