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COVID-19 testing event planned for Hill County


Last updated 6/19/2020 at 11:39am

Hill County Department Health Director Kim Larson said at a county officials meeting Thursday, her department is working with Bullhook Community Health Center to set up sentinel testing in the same vein as has been done on the Rocky Boy’s and Fort Belknap Indian reservations.

Larson said the testing is part of the state of Montana’s continued efforts to conduct sentinel testing and she thinks the current plan is to do this testing in July.

She said the department, as well as continuing their normal COVID-19-related work, has been following the increase in cases in Montana closely.

Larson said she had a call with local health officials across the state who said the county’s they are most worried about are Yellowstone, Gallatin and Big Horn.

“They’re expecting a lot of community-acquired infections, not travel-related, so they’re watching that really closely,” she said.

However, Larson said, for now there is no indication of the state moving back into Phase One.

She also detailed the department’s recent efforts to get people in Havre properly immunized.

Larson said because people have been staying home for the pandemic there’s been a significant drop in people coming in for immunization, so the health department has been their using their mobile clinic to address the problem.

“On Tuesday, we went to Oakwood Village, we were there from 11 to 2 and then 6 to 8, and we probably checked about 30 people’s immunization records and gave about 12 immunizations that day,” she said.

The mobile clinic will be at the Havre Food Bank next week to continue these efforts, which Larson said, are extremely important amid the pandemic.

“We’re going to do more locations throughout the community, we might set up at parks where there’s an event going on, or up at the mall, or if we get a call,” she said. “… We don’t want to have another pandemic on top of the one we already have.”

She said these efforts have been conducted using funding from the CARES Act, which has allowed the department to bolster similar essential services.

“We’re utilizing it a lot for our mobile immunization clinics and making sure our public health essential services that have not been happening as much during COVID-19 are brought back up to what they were,” Larson said, “and also in preparation for the second wave of COVID-19 coming in the fall.”

She also said the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children is still doing remote services and the state health department is requesting another extension of the program.

Larson said she thinks the national program will want to provide services through September.

She said this has been a bad year for the state when it comes to ticks.

She mentioned that Montana has already seen 10 cases of Colorado Tick Fever Virus this year, when it usually sees one or none in a season, though she said the majority have been in western Montana.

Hill County Mosquito District Supervisor Terry Turner said he’s been finding a lot of ticks in places generally thought to be relatively free of them.

“Word of caution, you don’t need to walk through the brush to get ticks on you,” Turner said.

He also provided an update about the mosquitos in the area and what the district has been doing.

Turner said the district began its adulticide operation May 29, but the weather has been hampering their progress, especially in Beaver Creek Park.

He said next week is mosquito awareness week and the American Mosquito Control Association will be publishing articles on its Facebook page about the subject.

Turner, who is also the Weed District Coordinator, said that district has been getting rid of most of the phragmites along the railroad down to Harlem, though he said, there have only been a few sprags around Havre.

Hill County’s new Disaster and Emergency Response Coordinator Amanda Frickel provided an update on her activities.

Frickel said the department no longer has the ability to order personal protective equipment from the state unless they are dealing directly with COVID-19 in some capacity because the state of Montana’s capacity to provide that PPE for any other reason has ended.

“There’s a new form that I have to fill out that states that we are directly working with someone in contact with COVID,” she said.

Larson said the health department recently received a $40,000 grant from the Montana Addiction and Mental Disorders Division for PPE for law enforcement and EMS, and that they could help DES if they felt they needed it.

Frickel said the last thing the state sent them was 8,135 N95 masks for schools and officials, etc.

Hill County Building Manager Daryl Anez provided an update and said the new chiller for the Hill County Courthouse’s air conditioning system will not arrive until August.

He also said a new transfer switch for the power system in the building will be installed soon.

He said the project will require the power to the courthouse to be temporarily turned off, so he’s hoping to schedule it for a weekend.

Hill County Extension Agent Tom Allen said his organization will be proceeding with the 4-H’s fair shows July 17 through the morning of July 19 and their sale in later that day.

He said Extension is encouraging people to attend the show on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MSUHillCountyExtension/, instead of in-person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allen said the Chuckwagon will not be open, which has made the event far easier to conduct.

He also said the event will offer virtual bidding with proxy bidder for those who are uncomfortable attending in person.

Allen encouraged people to cooperate with each other if it means they can get involved with the sale.

“We know it’s been a tough time this year for businesses, so we’re kinda worried about what our sales numbers are going to look like, so we’re encouraging businesses and individuals to team up,” he said, “maybe go together to buy an animal, something like that.”

Look out for more information on the 4-H events in upcoming editions of the Havre Daily News.

Hill County Auditor Kathy Olson could not be at the meeting, but Hill County Commissioner Mike Wendland read her report to those in attendance.

The report said health insurance enrollment for county employees went well overall despite a few bumps in the road.

At the Hill County Commissioner’s Business Meeting shortly after the officials meeting ended the commission voted unanimously to approve a relocation of common boundary between Olson Ranch and Lawlor Ranch along with the associate agriculture exemptions.

They also unanimously voted to accept a contract from Tyler Smith of Lakeside Excavation to perform maintenance on lift stations.

The commission also voted unanimously to approve contract with RDT Services LLC to perform random drug testing for the road and sheriff’s offices.


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