Ravalli County officials detail coronavirus preparations

Ravalli County coronavirus preps
Posted at 9:07 AM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 11:18:32-04

HAMILTON — Local health officials say it’s only a matter of time before Montana sees its first confirmed case of coronavirus.

Ravalli County medical advisors, emergency coordinators, and county commissioners came together on Wednesday to develop a plan for the virus that they say will inevitably hit.

Ravalli County Public Health Office director Karyn Johnston said that when it comes to preventative measures, the steps are fundamental.

“Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough into your sleeve and don’t come into work if you’re sick,” she said. That’s pretty basic.”

While those steps may be basic, health officials say that’s what will help in containing the virus. In the meantime, the Ravalli County Public Health Office will see some changes.

Effective immediately, the emergency coordinator will move from part-time to full time. The office is also in the process of hiring a new nurse, and the public health nurse will assume the role of public information officer.

Meanwhile, health officials say they’re monitoring coronavirus updates by the hour.

“Ravalli County Public Health is working in concert with the CDC, and obviously we’re a lucky community in terms of things like this because we have Rocky Mountain Labs, the NIH is right in our community,” Ravalli County Commissioner Chris Hoffman said. “We can get questions answered. We know they are working on this virus.”

Additional information about coronavirus can be found on the CDC's website, including the following:

Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern. The risk to the general public from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people; the severity of resulting illness; and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccines or medications that can treat the illness). That this disease has caused severe illness, including illness resulting in death is concerning, especially since it has also shown sustained person-to-person spread in several places. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. As community spread is detected in more and more countries, the world moves closer toward meeting the third criteria, worldwide spread of the new virus.

It is important to note that current circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC’s risk assessment will be updated as needed.

Current risk assessment:

  • For the majority of people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. There is not widespread circulation in most communities in the United States.
  • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on location.

CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.