The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Blaine County now has 4 Positive COVID-19 Cases

 

July 22, 2020



For the first five months of the Global COVID-19 Corona Virus Pandemic that has gripped our communities in 2020, Blaine County was able to maintain a clean slate. That changed last Wednesday, July 11 with the first positive test being returned. On Friday the Blaine County Health Department reported that through contact tracing from the original case, three more positive tests were returned.

This brings the number of COVID-19 test positives to four which is the thresh hold set for new mandates to take effect as ordered by Governor Steve Bullock. As of 2:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon the Blaine County Health Department reported that these remained the only active cases in Blaine County and that contact tracing has been completed.

Governor Steve Bullocks mandate states that directly affects residents in all Montana Counties with at least Four Active Cases. The directive states citizens are required to wear masks while in public places or in outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible.

In a statement, the Blaine County Health Officer and the Blaine County Health Department (BCHD) recommend people wear masks anytime they are around non-household members and social distancing isn’t possible - regardless of number of current cases in a county.

The BCHD statement added, “To be clear, mask use does not prevent someone from being exposed to COVID-19, the goal is not to filter the air the mask-wearer breathes. The goal is for the mask wearer to not unknowingly spread a virus to others, to cover two common areas (the nose and mouth) infectious droplets could enter the body of the person wearing the mask, and to decrease the mask-wearers tendency to touch their mouth or nose- potentially transferring the virus from their hands to the inside of their body.”

As far as the current situation in Blaine County and in response to the contact tracing being completed on the four active cases the BCHD states, “We are always waiting for test results, though - so we don’t get too attached or comforted by a number of active cases at any one given time.”

Information on the four active cases is limited and the privacy rights of the individuals is being closely protected. The BCHS commented on the matter and said, “The only information we are releasing about the cases are that they were all identified by contact tracing of confirmed cases, that all cases are isolated, and the current case count is four.”

Continued on Page A3: Positive COVID Cases

The BCHD added, “The initial case in Blaine County came into contact with a confirmed case from another county in Montana. Symptoms have ranged widely among cases, and there have been no hospitalizations in Blaine County cases as of today. The contact tracing for all cases is complete, and the Blaine County Health Department has a specific goal of contacting ‘close contacts’ of all cases within 24 hours of the contact being identified.”

Subsequently the BCHD will not release the communities in which the cases are located, and the health department is required through in place protocols to prevent any information that could potentially be used to identify these individuals. The BCHD is bound to protect its citizens through contact tracing and to alert first responders through the Blaine County dispatch system if additional PPE is required at particular addresses.

Many have inquired to BCHD officials on their investigative protocols. Blaine County Health Department Nurse Jana Hauer stated, “With COVID-19, like most communicable diseases where public health does case investigation and contact tracing, “close contact” has a specific meaning. We consider a close contact to be anyone who spent 15 minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 case during a specific infectious period. There are 2 other ways a person can be a contact to a COVID-19 case: one is through repeated exposure (as in a household or workplace setting) and the other is related to healthcare exposures.”

The BCHD will reach out to each contact and encourage those individuals to get tested. The individual will also be required to self-isolate for 14 days after the last known contact with the confirmed case. The BCHD statement reads, “If a person has not been contacted by public health, they are not a contact to a case. People often ask about the proper actions for people in contact with someone who is deemed a “close contact”. The Blaine County Health Department spends a lot of time reminding people that contacts to contacts are not monitored under public health, nor is there specific public health recommendations based on that secondary contact status.”

With testing being a topic, many residents have asked about the BCHD says, “Blaine County providers are able to test close contacts symptomatic individuals. Until this past week, we also had surveillance testing options (testing people without symptoms). Surveillance testing has been put on hold until the lab that processes those tests can increase its capacity and hopefully decrease the time it takes to get results back. When surveillance efforts re-start, the Blaine County Health Department has plans to work with area partners to hold a drive through testing event.”

The BCHD strongly encourages residents to help stop the spread of the virus, “We work every day with people who are sick waiting with angst for test results. We answer worried questions of cases and contacts such as ‘did I unknowingly expose and infect my compromised family member?’. We make phone calls, visits, and connections for people who may or may not agree with the Directives we are obligated to follow - but this is done to try to continue to flatten the curve to not overwhelm our health resources, and to give Blaine County residents a reliable source for public health guidance.”

Residents who have questions or wish to seek reliable information are encouraged to call the Blaine County Health Department at 357-2345 or email bchd@blainecounty-mt.gov.

 
 

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