Flathead County establishes coronavirus incident command

hospital visitor restrictions.jpg
Posted at 10:16 AM, Mar 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-14 12:16:38-04

KALISPELL — Flathead County officials have established an incident command in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Doug Nelson with Kalispell Regional Medical Center says the hospital has a strict protocol.

"We are making plans for how we're going to test people in numbers expand correctly, significantly, how to care for those people with the knowledge that some of our staff may be out with the virus as well,” he explained. “How we're going to respond to surges in our patient volumes in our hospital."

Dr. Nelson says they've taken precautions, including no visitors to Brendan House which is a retirement care facility for elderly patients, "older people with many health problems really are most at risk and vulnerable populations. We want to take real steps to protect them.”

Kalispell Regional Health also has infectious disease doctors and nurses on staff.

Flathead County Health Officer Hillary Hanson says the county has established an incident command, which she says provides structure emergency situations.

"Scenarios like this the number one thing we run into is resources and a lot of things -- and a lot of times, it's just people resources. Having enough people to answer the phones for everyone that has questions,” she said.

“And so, putting together this structure and then working with our partners to designate one person to work with us, really allows us to efficiently use our time and resources which means we do a better job at responding,” Hanson added.

We spoke with Kalispell City Manager Doug Russell to find out what the city is planning for when it comes to coronavirus.

“A lot of those things that will go out for open house comment, or things that are really initiative driven that we try and get feedback from the community, that's really not going to be too much of a burden to just postpone and look at it from that avenue. Just take those additional measures of caution."

Russell added this is a unique situation and the city will continue to take it one step at a time.

Visitor restrictions at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, the HealthCenter, and North Valley Hospital have also been expanded to one designated family member per patient and one entry point per facility.

Additional information about coronavirus can be found on the CDC's website, including the following:

Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern. The risk to the general public from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people; the severity of resulting illness; and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccines or medications that can treat the illness). That this disease has caused severe illness, including illness resulting in death is concerning, especially since it has also shown sustained person-to-person spread in several places. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. As community spread is detected in more and more countries, the world moves closer toward meeting the third criteria, worldwide spread of the new virus.

It is important to note that current circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC’s risk assessment will be updated as needed.

Current risk assessment:

  • For the majority of people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. There is not widespread circulation in most communities in the United States.
  • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on location.

CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.