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Health board discusses school re-opening and COVID-19 surge


Last updated 10/5/2020 at 11:55am

In it’s weekly COVID-19 update call Friday the Hill County Health Board met and discussed Montana’s recent surge in positive cases and Havre Public Schools recent plans for their Phase 3 re-opening.

Hill County Public Health Director and Health Officer Kim Larson said Montana has seen between 300 and 450 new cases a day for the last week, representing a surge in the state.

“This week alone the state of Montana has added about 2,000 cases of COVID-19,” she said.

Montana saw 501 new cases confirmed Friday, listed in the state report the day after the Board of Health meeting.

Larson said the department has been focusing on contact tracing, a job that might become somewhat easier to manage soon.

She said the department is working with Montana State University -Northern to add more contact tracers, a project, she said she thinks it’s going well.

She said the department now has four designated contact tracers and a fifth is currently being trained.

The health department has also posted its job offer for an immunization nurse, she said, and interviews will be held for the position this week.

Larson also talked about Havre Public Schools Phase 3 re-opening plans, which were recently submitted to her department by Havre Interim-Superintendent Craig Muller.

She said the ongoing surge in Montana makes the plans, which would involve students returning to the classroom four or five days a week, something her department cannot endorse.

“With our cases the way that they are moving, we do not recommend that our schools opening to Phase 3,” Larson said.

Larson praised Havre Public Schools for the measures they have implemented and said they have prevented a potential closure in Sunnyside Intermediate School.

She said 28 people connected to the case confirmed two weeks ago in Sunnyside may seem like a lot, but the only reason that number wasn’t far higher was fact that the school was well-prepared to deal with it.

Larson said the department would likely spend the next week answering a lot of phone calls and emails particularly regarding three recent events in the county, which resulted in possible community exposure to COVID-19.

She said the department contacted Northern Montana Health Care and the hosts of those events releasing the information to the public.

Larson said Hill County has not seen any community spread yet, but she anticipates these events will result in more cases.

“We anticipate quite a few new cases coming from that,” she said. “We’re hoping we’re wrong, but we want to be prepared in case that does happen.”

Larson also said Northern Montana Health Care has a new provider for their flu clinic, as well as new staff at the hospital to help deal with new cases of COVID-19.

She said the department is working with Blaine County’s Health Department to setting up large flu vaccine clinics and people should be looking out for those.

Larson said the department should be getting its high-dose flu vaccine, typically reserved for elderly patients, by Thursday.

She said people can call the department to schedule an appointment to get their shot.

The next COVID-19 call will be Friday at p.m.


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