Despite Low Threat, Public Health, Healthcare Preparing For Health Emergency
March 11, 2020 | View PDF
Though there are currently no cases of the novel coronavirus in Montana and North Dakota, and there are no persons under investigation, the Richland County Health Department and Sidney Health Center have spent several weeks making preparations for its potential arrival.
“We are working closely with our state health department, Sidney Health Center, and other community partners to ensure we are prepared to protect the public in the event of a positive case or cases in Richland County,” said Brittney Petersen, MS, Administrator of Richland County Health Department.
Officials from RCHD and Sidney Health Center met recently to develop a flow chart for joint messaging concerning communicable diseases like the flu, and new diseases like the coronavirus. Last week, officials met again for a table top exercise to walk through what would happen if Richland County did have a case of the coronavirus, and how the two agencies will work together to protect healthcare workers, patients and the public.
“Like the health department, we are keeping a close eye on the coronavirus and working with state and local partners to know what to look for and how to treat patients if a positive case presents,” stated Jennifer Doty, Sidney Health Center CEO.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance for schools, businesses and families to prepare for a potential outbreak. Because Montana has not been directly affected by the coronavirus, the recommendations from the Montana Department of Health (DPHHS) and the CDC are to continue to practice basic measures to prevent getting sick. This includes staying home when you or your child are sick, regularly washing hands, and cleaning and sanitizing frequently-touched areas, like door handles and knobs.
The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to that of a cold or flu, and include a mild to severe respiratory illness with cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath. Remember that influenza season continues in our area, and though the risk of coronavirus is low at this time, you still may contract the flu. If you feel sick enough to seek medical care, call your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call the Sidney Health Center Walk-In Clinic at 406-488-3963.
Officials also caution residents to get information related to the coronavirus from reliable sources. Because the situation is rapidly changing, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of news, and determining what news is real, and what isn’t. Montana DPHHS has a website dedicated to providing updated information on coronavirus in Montana, at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/ coronavirusmt. The CDC has an updated situation report and guidance for schools, businesses and families at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html, and the Richland County Health Department provides updates on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RichlandCountyHealthDepartment/.