Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Blaine County Health Department has COVID-19 case

No new cases in Chinook and Havre schools, Havre care center, care center visitations could begin soon


Last updated 9/24/2020 at 11:38am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Work continues Wednesday on an awning over the parking area at the Northern Montana Heath Care Flu Clinic.

Blaine County has reported a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the front-line people dealing with the pandemic.

The Blaine County Health Department posted on Facebook Wednesday that it became aware Wednesday of a case of COVID-19 being confirmed in an employee of the department.

The announcement comes as Northern Montana Health Care announced no new cases found at Northern Montana Care Center, and that under new guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it may be allowing visitation in the center as soon as it is able.

The announcements were made in the wake of the care center reporting a staff member at the center being confirmed with COVID-19 and both Havre and Chinook public schools this week reporting confirmed cases in their school districts.

Neither district has reported more than the singe cases announced, Sunday by Havre Public Schools and Tuesday by Chinook Public Schools.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Sept. 23 update on schools also listed two cases associated with Montana State University-Northern.

The Blaine County Health Department post said the positive case in that department has been isolated through the infectious period and did not expose anyone to COVID through work, adding that no known risk of exposure to community members is related to the case. 

"In the spirit of transparency, we want to reassure our partners and patients that we are taking this case (as we do all cases) seriously and implementing full public health interventions," the post said. "Contact tracing is complete for this case and all people who meet the definition of close contact have been notified and are quarantined. 

"Let this be a reminder that this is a viral illness, and while we all play a part in decreasing the spread, it can affect anyone," the post added. "Now is the time to dig deep and support each other and our communities. Let's leave the speculation behind and come together to all do our part in keeping our families, friends and neighbors healthy."

Northern Montana Health Care Vice President of Regulatory and Community Services Christen Obresley told The Havre Daily News this morning that no staff or residents at Northern Montana Care Center have tested positive since the care center last tested Sept. 17, the day after the announcement that a care center staff member had tested positive.

"We are conducting the mandatory seven-day COVID-19 testing for all staff and residents again today," she said. "We will continue to test every seven days until we have gone 14 days without any new positive cases. All of our previous restrictions and precautions are still in place."

In a letter sent Wednesday to family members of residents, Obresley said the care center has taken actions to maintain the safest environment possible including cleaning all high-touch surfaces at the care center, canceling group activities and communal dining and limiting visitation.

Since the staff member was confirmed with COVID-19, the center has started using masks with residents and has staff members wearing face shields as well as surgical or N-95 masks and screening of residents for COVID-19-like symptoms has been increased to three times a day, she said in the letter.

"Even with these restrictions in place, we have worked hard to provide our residents with meaningful, fun activities under social distancing guidelines," Obresley said in the letter. "I would like to thank our dedicated front line staff for keeping us aware and safe."

Obresley also wrote that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a significant change this month in nursing home visitation guidance and recommendations.

Following the CDC guidelines and in consideration of the county's rate of positive infections, she said, Northern Montana Care Center will accommodate and support outdoor and indoor visitation as soon as possible.

"In the meantime, I would like to remind you that we are encouraging virtual and window visits," Obresley said.

Northern Montana Health Care also is holding a drive-through influenza vaccination clinic Next Thursday through Saturday at Northern Montana Hospital's main Third Floor parking lot. People are asked to fill out a registration form in advance for everyone in their vehicle, available on the Northern Montana Hospital Facebook page.

The clinic will be Thursday, Oct. 1, from 2-7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the main parking lot, the third-floor parking lot, of Northern Montana Hospital.

"Typically, we'd do this in the clinic, but this way we can do it with the social distancing and wearing the masks and everything, which makes it a lot more convenient," Northern Montana Health Care Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator Julianne LaSmith said.

Public health officials across the state have said it's more important now than ever for people to get their flu vaccine to help avoid stressing the health care system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northern Montana Health Care also is adding an awning over the parking lot at its Flu Clinic, opened last March at the start of the pandemic in Montana, just east of the hospital parking lot.

"The providers triage the folks while in their cars," a post on the hospital Facebook page said. "It has worked really well so far. But colder weather is coming so we made the decision to cover part of the area in order to keep folks warmer."


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