MISSOULA — While harder hit parts of the country scramble for personal protective equipment (PPEs) for doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, the later arrival of COVID-19 has been giving Ravalli County leaders an opportunity to plan.
And at least initially, there's some optimism about supplies. Ravalli County incident commander Dr. Carol Calderwood says the concern is what happens to PPE when the expected surge in cases does begin to show up in the Bitterroot.
That's why social distancing, and staying at home, is so important right now to keep Ravalli County residents as safe as possible.
"We are using it fairly quickly already. With one case we're using our supply pretty quickly," said Calderwood. "And again, the one thing the community can do, is not to come to the hospital."
"If they need care the hospital is completely open. But please don't come if you're not short of breath, or feel like you're dehydrated or for some reason need hospital care."
Some national models are now suggesting Montana's "peak" of COVID-19 likely won't hit until later in April, and while we might have regular hospital bed capacity, that report suggests the crunch will come at ICU, with critically-ill patients.
So conservation, and caution, is key right now. And Calderwood tells me if additional testing capacity comes online, it will help refine those projections…
"It's the overall. It helps us to track and make plans for the whole outbreak," said Calderwood. "So it helps us, the testing helps us immensely. It will be a game changer if we get quicker, more testing."
"But, as far as the best thing you can do if you're sick and don't really need to be tested is to not come to the hospital. And it's not just saving the testing. It's saving the personal protective equipment."
As of Tuesday night it is reported that 120 tests have been completed.
Ravalli County officials say under Governor Bullock's travel orders, if Bitterroot residents drive "over the hill" into Idaho, down to Salmon for example, for a "non-work related purpose" they would to self-quarantine for 14-days when they get home.
Anyone who has traveled out of state, or country, is asked to contact the Ravalli County Emergency Operations Center at (406) 375-6650 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.