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Health officials discuss COVID-19 situation in Missoula County

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Posted at 8:35 AM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 10:35:14-04

MISSOULA — Idaho joined the 17 other states that have issued a "stay-at-home" order because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Wednesday.

We talked with Missoula City-County Health Officer Ellen Leahy to gauge where we stand against the pandemic.

Now that our neighbors to the west have issued a stay-at-home order there are a few questions on the minds of Missoulians now.

First things first, can we classify coronavirus as community spread? According to Leahy, as of right now, that answer is up for debate.

“I fully expect we will have it if we don’t find it in the current six, and because we don’t have as much testing as we need, it’s very possible that it’s there and just not showing up in our testing yet,” she told MTN News.

Once more test results become available, Leahy says they will be able to track who has come into contact with those coronavirus patients.

When it comes to flattening the curve, some are wondering if the preventative measures we've taken against the spread of COVID-19 are working.

Leahy explained that only six positive tests in Missoula County are not enough to know yet how we’re doing -- but history tells us that social distancing will work.

“From previous episodes and epidemics and outbreaks, these measures do work, we just don’t know how deep right now we’d have to go or how long,” Leahy said.

So, the question remains, what’s next? Could we see Missoula County enforcing a stay-at-home order?

“If you use stay-at-home and you only do one county and you treat it as if it’s an island, it really isn’t an island,” Leahy said, adding that with people coming and going from Missoula County all the time a stay at home order wouldn’t really work.

In order for it to be effective, any such directive would need to be issued either on a regional or statewide basis. While Montana has yet to issue a stay-at-home order, the public is still encouraged to stay home if reasonable.