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Closures, safety measures, pile up in wake of coronavirus pandemic


March 23, 2020

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Latasha Shortman and Nolan Snell pick up meals, snacks and activity booklets for their eight children handed out by the Havre Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line Wednesday at Oakwood Village Apartments.

Much has happened in north-central Montana - and the rest of the state, and the country, and the world - in the past week in response to the novel coronavirus 2019 pandemic.

Gov. Steve Bullock declared an emergency in the state March 12, and reported the next day that four cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, had been confirmed in Montana.

A flurry of local and state orders came out in the next week, closing all K-12 public schools, restricting bars and restaurants to pick-up or delivery meals only, limiting access to public facilities, health facilities, athletic facilities and private businesses, aid packages being approved and many groups offering assistance to people in need or who are concerned about the virus.

A global pandemic

Novel coronavirus 2019, a new strain of virus related to the virus that causes many mild ailments including the common cold, was first detected in China in December.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. 

But the disease can cause serious illness and can be fatal.

Older people, and people with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness, CDC reports.

The virus and disease rapidly spread in China and then spread outside of its borders.

World Health Organization declared a pandemic, a global outbreak of a disease, March 11, and President Donald Trump declared a national emergency March 13.

The World Health Organization coronavirus webpages this morning reported that 332,935 cases have been confirmed in 190 countries, areas or territories and 14,510 deaths are confirmed.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this morning that 15,219 cases have been confirmed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

CDC reports 201 confirmed U.S. deaths.

The confirmed cases have been spreading slowly in Montana. The first four Montana cases were confirmed March 13, and on its online map showing confirmations in Montana, available at https://montana.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=7c34f3412536439491adcc2103421d4b, the state government reports 34 cases in 11 counties.

No cases were confirmed this morning in Blaine, Chouteau, Hill or Liberty counties.

Shutdowns around the state

Bullock, who created a state task force March 3 to prepare the state for coronavirus did not issue any orders or restrictions at that time, but they soon followed both from local governments and from Bullock himself.

Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation declared an emergency March 14 and asked people who may have been exposed to the virus to go into self-isolation.

Rocky Boy and Box Elder schools also announced March 13 they were closing their buildings, and Havre and Hays-Lodge Pole made the same announcement March 14.

That same day, Bullock ordered all K-12 public schools in the state to close for two weeks.

Since then, schools have been working to provide meals, give students access to their materials and using online services to provide instruction.

See Bullock's order at https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/13/local/bullock-orders-schools-closed-for-14-days/527978.html and watch for more on what schools are doing in upcoming editions of the Havre Daily News.

Since then, governments have ordered bars and restaurants to be closed except for pick-up and delivery of food orders, including in Hill, Blaine and Liberty counties, and that was followed with Bullock ordering the same throughout the state, and imposing restrictions on other facilities like pools and health clubs and indoor recereation facilities, last Friday. See https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/20/state-news/governor-orders-statewide-in-facility-shutdowns-tonight-including-bars-restaurants/528081.html for his order.

Public facilities restricted

And the same was happening with public and governmental facilities. Hill County ordered its courthouse to be locked last week with people needing to call to get access to do business, and that was followed by Liberty and Blaine counties as well.

Other facilities, like pools and libraries and Boys & Girls Clubs were also closed in locations like Hill County, in advance of Bullock's order last Friday.

And more and more groups are canceling or rescheduling events and closing offices, asking people to call for services or to make appointments.

That includes Montana State University Extension, Triangle Communications, Job Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, local veterans affairs outreach programs and more.

For some of the cancellations, reschedulings and services offered listed early last week, visit https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/17/local/events-and-locations-closed-canceled-rescheduled-and-still-going-on/528014.html .

Universities go online

The same day the governor issued his emergency declaration, the Montana University System directed its campuses to transition to online classes following spring break.

Montana State University-Northern made announcements throughout last week in its planning, announcing Thursday and Friday changes to its food service, that all classes including clinicals and labs would be online and asking residents of its dormitories to, if possible, seek alternate living arrangements.

See more at https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/19/local/northern-adjusts-food-services-during-covid-19-pandemic/528051.html and https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/20/local/northern-continues-adjustments-in-covid-19-oubreak/528076.html .

Stone Child College on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation announced it was closing its campus except to students, faculty and staff, with limited access points.

Aaniiih Nakoda College on Fort Belknap Indian Reservation announced it had canceled classses through Friday with spring break staring this week. The campus is open only to staff and faculty.

Medical facilities

Northern Montana Health Care started working on preparation immediately, closing Northern Montana Hospital and Northern Montana Care Center to visitors, setting up an alternate clinic for the virus and asking anyone who needs attention to call in advance if possible.

"If they are showing the symptoms, the flu-like symptoms, which is sore throat, cough, fever, some stomach issues, when they feel like they cannot manage those symptoms at home they do need to come in and speak with a provider," Northern Montana Health Care Public Relations officer Julianne LaSmith said.

For a regular clinic visit or inquiry people should call the Northern Montana Family Medical Center at 265-5408 or the Northern Montana Specialty Medical Center at 265-7831.

If they are feeling ill with flu-like symptoms - sore throat, cough, fever, difficulty breathing and so on - they should call the flu clinic at 262-1570. They will then be directed on how to proceed.

After hours, they can call Northern Montana Hospital at 265-2211 and ask to speak with the administrative director on call and they will be advised as to their next steps.

See more at https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/19/local/alternate-flu-clinic-continuing-in-havre/528056.html .

Emergency responders and the courts

And local law enforcement, emergency responders and the courts also are taking action.

The Hill County Detention Center was closed to all visitation and Hill County Sheriff's Office is asking people to call rather than come into the office, with personnel handling as much business as possible by telephone and internet.

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Low stock of flour and sugar is seen March 15 at Gary & Leo's Fresh Foods. Local retailers, like retailers around the world, are having a hard time keeping items - especially toilet paper - in stock as people shop during the COVID-19 outbreak.

People needing help from the Havre Fire Department also are asked to call and say if they have symptoms that could be from the coronavirus.

See more at https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/19/local/alternate-flu-clinic-continuing-in-havre/528056.html .

And the local courts also are taking action to reduce the chance of the spread of the virus, including any nonessential hearings if possible and asking people who need to appear to call the courts to find out how they should proceed.

See more at https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/19/local/alternate-flu-clinic-continuing-in-havre/528056.html .

And the same is true regarding upcoming elections. People are asked to use absentee ballots in the upcoming elections if possible, to reduce the spread of the virus.

See more at https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/03/16/local/election-administrator-urges-absentee-ballots-to-reduce-covid-19-exposure/528003.html .


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