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Ravalli County launching campaign asking for "responsibility" during COVID upswing

Posted at 8:18 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 00:46:59-04

Faced with a sharp spike in positive coronavirus cases, Ravalli County leaders will launch a new campaign appealing to people to take personal responsibility to combat the problem.

With another 25-positive cases Wednesday, Ravalli County now has 120 cases, about 6 times higher than the initial coronavirus outbreak last spring. That had doctors and nurses telling the Board of Health they're "overwhelmed" right now with tests and can't keep up with contact tracing.

“I understand personal choice and I don't want to put restrictions on, you know that are that are mandatory. But I think to put a plea out for people to take responsibility and we, you know, we don't know the shape of the curve. But this looks like the upslope,” said Dr. Carol Calderwood, the Ravalli County Health Officer.

But county commissioners aren't sure of the numbers, saying the Bitterroot's infection rate is far below other Montana counties.

Jeff Burrows Ravalli co-comissioner said, “Ravalli County is the redheaded stepchild, but our rates are lower than all of the others, including those that are just ‘gung ho” aggressive, the the gold standard as presented by the governor has double the infection rate that Ravalli County has.”

“When you start having community spread, that's when you're not able to link cases anymore. You know that it is the tip of the iceberg," said Calderwood.

The board proposed a campaign, urging residents to keep following precautions, wearing masks, keeping their distance, and especially staying home when sick. Mask opponents still question the scope of the problem. State Representative David Bedey said a campaign is a good step, if based on trackable local stats.

“I think I just report the day by day changing the statistics so people can see what the trends are," said Represenative David Bedy.

The board decided on a message that would encourage personal responsibility instead of enforcement.

Roger DeHann said Ravalli Co-board of Health, “This is what we recommend if you can possibly help take care of other people it it probably would help.”

“I trust the citizens of Ravalli County to do what's right for their own health," said Burrows.

The 5 thousand dollar campaign will include new public service advertising and road signs reminding people to be careful. Meanwhile, the Ravalli County Health Department said it desperately needs nurses to help with contact tracing, and is looking to hire them right away.