Missoula health officials discuss COVID-19 as schools head back to class

Masked Students
Missoula City County Health Department
Cindy Farr
Posted at 7:19 AM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 09:19:22-04

MISSOULA — Missoula COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr is offering insight into the current coronavirus situation as area schools prepare to return to the classroom.

The COVID-19 updates come every day -- and every day it seems like things are getting more and more out of hand. "We are still seeing a pretty steady number of cases coming in," Farr noted.

But experts at the Missoula City-County Health Department say the number to look at is the R value -- which in our case is actually pretty good.

"We're watching the R value which is the reproductive value of the virus --how many people who get exposed to it are actually getting sick from it," Farr explained. "And right now it's still hovering right around one, and that's what we want to see.

But the Missoula community is expected to see major changes in the coming weeks as students head back to school.

"I do understand everyone's concerns when we start talking about, 'okay, let's put all of our students back in'," Farr said. You know, K through 12 classes together -- and we're bringing in all of these people for the university from all over different areas of the country. And I hear the concerns."

Cindy Farr
Missoula COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr

But these concerns aren’t just now coming to Farr’s attention, "we have been making these plans with the university and with our school districts for many months now."

Things are changing rapidly, but Farr says that’s no reason to put our lives on hold.

"We may see a surge in cases once school is back in session, and at that point, they may have to take a step back. And so while we're saying...we think that it's okay to go ahead and move forward right now because we do have to move on with their lives," Farr said.

"We can't just all put all of our lives on hold for a year while we try and make it through this, and so I'm trying to figure out a way that we can do it as safely as possible," she concluded.

The Missoula City-County Health Department and epidemiologists with the University of Montana will hold a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the latest information and trends for COVID-19 cases in Missoula County.