MISSOULA — The Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) is ramping up staffing to respond to growing needs as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
“I know that for a lot of people it's feeling a little bit like deja vu from last fall," Missoula County COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr told MTN News.
During the fall of 2020, the coronavirus disease was spreading in the Missoula community and now one year later, that spread is happening again at a rapid pace. According to Farr, the current COVID wave mirrors last November, so it’s here about two months sooner.
“Obviously we're getting this surge quite a bit earlier than we got our surge last year. And so, and we're not really sure how long it's going to hang on," Farr said.
At the health department’s peak, there were just under 500 people working on pandemic response. That staff number is now 168, so the department is hiring new personnel to respond to the current wave.
“As we're seeing cases go up again we are rapidly onboarding new people to help us manage this COVID-19 response. We had downscaled some of our staffing back in the spring when our numbers were going down and then through the summer and now we're bringing people back on, in order to help our response." - Missoula County COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr
There are about 100 open positions within the department, but there’s one potential problem. Missoula County is also experiencing a worker shortage.
“I still am optimistic that there are enough people in Missoula that would like to work and like to contribute to this response that we will be able to fill all of our open positions, but it's definitely taking a little bit longer for us to find the right people for those positions right now,” Farr said.
According to Farr, people are needed at testing locations and vaccine clinics, to contact trace, and provide adminstrative support.
When asked about funding for these positions, Farr explained reimbursement is still available from FEMA because of the national emergency declaration, along with a few other sources.
To view the positions, visit missoulainfo.com and click on the "jobs" tab.
The Montana COVID-19 tracking website shows 11,120 total cases have been confirmed in Missoula County including 10,211 recoveries and 100 deaths. There were 799 active cases reported on Friday.