Ravalli County Health Dept. asking community to be mindful of COVID surge

Posted at 9:44 PM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 11:43:30-04

HAMILTON — Ravalli County had 49 new active cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday night and two more citizens have died from the virus.

Ravalli County Public Health told MTN News they are overwhelmed with the current COVID situation, and they’re calling on the community to do their part in getting the virus under control.

“We’re at the point now where it’s here, it’s on our front porch and the behaviors of individuals in our community are going to be the determining factor in what happens moving forward,” said health department spokesman Joe Hopkins.

One hundred active cases of the coronavirus now threaten Ravalli County. “Over the weekend cases have absolutely skyrocketed,” said Ravalli County Public Health director Tiffany Webber.

She said there are probably more than 100 cases out there, but as of right now, testing capacity in the county is limited to Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, and a lot of people haven’t been able to get tested.

“Quite frankly, we have one place down here that's collecting swabs, and it's a two-hour wait, a lot of times, to get in. There just aren't a lot of choices at this end of the Valley,” said Webber.

She hopes to establish a testing site run by Ravalli County Public Health, but that’s easier said than done.

“It is rife with issues, so I'm discovering. You know like, now all of a sudden who's going to clean the building," Webber said.

The cases can be seen in every age group, from little kids to the elderly, and clusters are primarily connected to bars and restaurants.

“We follow the cases. As we find them, then people are quarantined. And then, as others become symptomatic, they get tested, they isolate, they quarantine and that's what shuts things down, and they're always around businesses that chose to ignore the directives.”

Webber added that her nursing staff at the health department consists of four part-timers and one full-time nurse.

With limited resources and staff, she has a pretty unique approach when it comes to handling the pandemic.

“I've been looking at it as a battlefield. You know, I have to get the bleeders first, then I can worry about infections after," Webber said. "I have to get the positive cases first before focusing on the close contacts.”

In order to keep their heads above water, Ravalli County Public Health is asking that the community be mindful of the choices they’re making.

They advise you to only interact with the same, small group of people, limit your outings, and remember the three W’s: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, and Watch your distance.

“You can fall into a false sense of security when you live in a community like Ravalli County and you're not seeing the numbers like you're seeing on both coasts,” said Hopkins. “You know, we don't feel that sense of panic here, but that may start to change a little bit.”

The Health Department is working closely with local school nurses to assist in the contact tracing process. They ask that you cooperate with school health officials as all of their directives are coming from the Ravalli County Health Department.

You can find more on Ravalli’s COVID numbers and their close contact instructions here.