VCHD Update On COVID-19

 

August 26, 2020



Editor’s Note: The Valley County Health Department and Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital confirmed one case of COVID-19 over the past week. As of Aug. 23, the county has three active cases with 34 recovered and 37 total cases.

Case 37 is a female aged 20-29 who is not hospitalized and is isolating at home. The individual is symptomatic and was identified through contact tracing. The investigation and contact tracing for the individual was complete.

For the most up-to-date number of cases, follow the Valley County Health Department Facebook page.

Dear Valley County,

We have a saying in public health - if you’re not aware of us, we are accomplishing our job of prevention, protection, and promotion. Public health works to prevent disease and injury, protect the public, and promote healthy choices. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic where public health is front and center. We are all affected by this pandemic, the reality of a new and unknown virus, our political leaders’ responses and directives, public health experts’ recommendations, and the impact of choices that everyone makes.


It has been seven months since we first heard of SARS-Coronavirus 2. For a bit of perspective, consider the number of years of study and research, from which we all benefit, for prevention of other viral diseases like influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, HIV, varicella (chicken pox/shingles), Hepatitis A and B, and many others. Every day, researchers around the globe are working on the best prevention strategies of further spread, the best treatment for this new disease process, and the best long-term strategies of developing a thoroughly tested and safe vaccine.

We are left with very few prevention strategies; right now, these are hand hygiene, social distancing, and wearing a mask. That’s it. And, honestly, none of us like any of these being suggested to us, insisted upon, or forced onto us. However, at this moment in time, it is all we have for prevention of the still very unknown disease.

Valley County continues to be very fortunate in our number of positive cases. We jumped up to 16 active cases in early August after some large events, but we are (Aug. 24) back to very few cases. Our “middle of nowhere” status has many advantages like this! But in this first year of living through a new and unknown virus and its evolution, we have several more hurdles - influenza season is soon upon us, cold weather where we are inside more, and the resumption of school and student sports events. We don’t know how any of this will affect the health of the 7,000 residents of Valley County, but public health is working on prevention. For this reason, even though we are tired of the restrictions, we need to go into the next season of this virus with a mindset of continuing the prevention measures that we are currently doing. The cooperation of the residents who are mindful and follow the guidelines is appreciated, and everyone is benefitting from it.


Now a bit of information about the Valley County Health Department. We are a staff of six: Cam Shipp, registered sanitarian; Ella Tweten, RN; Teri Long, administrative assistant; Tisa Seiler, billing and PHEP coordinator; and our new RN, Jan Kaiser, who bravely joined us two weeks ago. I took the position of director on May 4, 2020. We are learning every day how to best handle the prevention measures. We get new information every day on the best recommendations to make for events, gatherings, the workplace, nursing homes, assisted living, and schools. Our process for persons positive for COVID-19 and safety for their contacts has changed a great deal from our first case to our case #37, due to the ongoing research after millions have contracted this virus. We will incorporate new information as it is released. That is science in real-time.

I have personally talked to each superintendent of the Valley County schools, some of them several times regarding details of operations within their building and their plans to include the only real prevention strategies -- hand hygiene, social distancing, and masks -- for the students and staff. Each school has its own challenges and solutions. I have discussed many issues with Valley County Health Officer Dr. Anne Millard. During the week that Valley County received 12 positive COVID-19 cases, our staff was overwhelmed with the workload. But we came up with a plan to keep providing immunizations to all the students needing the required vaccines for school (Ella is a pillar at our department), and we called 87 close contacts to those positive cases (Tisa is amazing at getting information out), sent them for testing, and asked them to quarantine. I estimate that phone records would show that Teri fielded 200 calls a day that week!


During that time, I was, truthfully, not available for anything other than COVID contact tracing. During that time, the Glasgow schools moved forward with their planning for each building with hand hygiene, social distancing, and the mask requirement (now directed by the Governor), again, our only real prevention measures if the students are to attend school in person. During that time, personnel at the Glasgow schools were reaching out to a student doctor Katie Bertillino, here on rotation who is at the point of her education where she is quite qualified to advise on COVID safety measures. Ms. Bertillino also attended a school board meeting and participated in conversations with several school staff afterwards. During that time, the schools were developing their school plan with medical recommendations from the CDC, the Valley County Health Department, Dr. Anne Millard, and student doctor Katie Bertillino. The schools moved forward in making their school plan. It is not a medical plan; it is a school plan.

The Valley County Health Department is in constant contact with the local hospital scheduling (Patti, Jana, and Erin - you are the best), lab, respiratory clinic (Cori, Rachel, and Sharon!), and providers to quickly work to limit the spread of COVID-19. I also communicate daily with our partners at the state DPHHS Communicable Disease and Epidemiology division.

We are thankful to everyone in Valley County who does their best to follow the prevention measures and knows that it isn’t about you, it is about what can each of us do to protect others. If I protect you and you protect me, we both protect our family and loved ones. This won’t last forever -- this will be behind us one day.

Please follow our Facebook page-Tisa is sharing information about COVID-19 prevention daily. And we are scheduling our outreach influenza vaccine clinics. The CDC advises that it is even more important this year to get the influenza vaccine. We hope to prevent anyone from getting both viruses at the same time, of course.

Our next regular Board of Health meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 5:15 p.m. in the Courthouse Annex basement or you can attend by teleconference by dialing 571-748-4021 pin number: 2672541#

If you have any questions, please call us at 406-228-6261 or you can email me at [email protected] We are open Monday - Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. All vaccinations are by appointment at this time. We are all in this together - stay healthy, Valley County.

 

Sincerely,

Lynn Miller, RN

Director, Valley County Health Department

 

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