Missoula Mayor John Engen and Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick spoke to KGVO News on March 19 to provide updates about the city’s current response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Engen began by stating, “The first order of business for us is ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of the residents we swore to serve, and we’re taking care of that. We needed to make sure that we had contingencies in place so that emergency personnel could continue to do their work. Those people are critical to the existence of [Missoula] and we’re taking care of those people.”  

Engen says that the city has been working with community partners and ensuring communication with relevant stakeholders.  

The city has been holding a 9:30 AM meeting for community partners and a 4:30 PM debriefing to confirm what the city accomplished during the day and what they plan for the subsequent day, along with a daily meeting at 11:00 AM to discuss items of the day.  

Some of the current items of business, Engen stated, are to solve for the implications of citywide closures, including addressing issues that may affect service workers and those who need to care for children.  

Engen says that there is also a wide variety of important services, such as IT, that have plans in place in the event that they need to provide service through alternative means.  

The city has been reaching out to other communities in Montana, such as hospitals in Bozeman and Billings, to learn more about their response. He mentions that Montana has “stepped up” their testing abilities by operating seven days a week and securing enough test kits to serve the state's needs.  

Slotnick added that the city has been effective in working out how to provide essential services in the midst of the current outbreak.  

Praising the city’s response, Slotnick stated, “I’ve been really impressedgiven that I’ve only been at this a year and fortunately haven’t yet had to go through an emergency or crisis in government, that there are real protocols, preestablished, on how to handle these things—command structures, committees formed. Once this hit, those structures rolled out pretty seamlessly. That was really impressive to see.” 

“We’re a little ahead of the game here in terms of what we’re hearing from other communities,” Engen said about the city’s response.  

“We have resources planned and a lot of talent. It’s natural to be frightened, but fear does not necessarily need to lead to panic. 

He says that there’s also no need to hoard goods, as the food supply chain is in “really good shape” in the United States. “We’re going to get through it,” Engen said. “We’re not alone.” 

To close his statements, Engen reminds Missoulians to be “kind and respectful” in the face of this outbreak and to seek verifiable information about the outbreak.  

Engen and Slotnick will be providing daily video updates of the coronavirus situation through the city website. Updates will also be made available on KGVO News. 

Slotnick concluded by stating, “People are really coming togetherFor a long time now, there’s been a lot of talk about how deeply polarized we are as a country, and how this seems almost a chasm that’s uncrossable. We’re crossing it right now. 

Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, are putting those labels aside and people are actually working together. This has nothing to do with your opinion on the size of government or taxation. That’s really a good thing...it gives me heart that we will actually make it through.”  

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