One day after the first two confirmed cases of COVID 19 or coronavirus in Missoula were announced, the Missoula City County Health Department held a press conference to answer questions from the media.

Health Promotion Division Director and Incident Commander for the COVID 19 pandemic, Cindy Farr opened by repeating the news about the first two confirmed Missoula cases.

“Our team is actively working on determining on who the contacts are for those folks,” said Farr. “We’ve had very good cooperation from the public who are involved who have been close contacts. Those people who tested positive will be tested until they receive two negative test results and the contacts will be isolated and quarantined in their homes for 14 days and monitored for symptoms. While we do recognize that this can cause a bit of an alarm once we know that we have it in our county, please understand that we are working very hard with people who have been exposed, and we’re getting very good cooperation and we’re hoping that this will continue to slow the spread in our county.”

Farr said neither of the first two patients is ill enough to be hospitalized.

“They are to be taking their temperatures twice a day and they are monitoring their own health so that if their symptoms get worse then they will contact our nurse and we are going to facilitate getting them taken care of by a healthcare provider,” she said. “They are both recovering in their homes right now and they are not sick enough to be hospitalized and we are working very closely with them so that if they do need to be hospitalized or even be seen by a clinician, then we will facilitate that in a safe way.”

Farr discussed the process of ‘trace backs’ to determine where the two patients had been before their infection had been confirmed.

“We are working with the two patients to determine when their onset began and then determining who they were in contact with during the time that they were contagious, and then reaching out to them and letting know that they may have been exposed to COVID 19 and that they need to remain isolated in their homes for the nest 14 days,” she said. “They are also being told to take their temperatures twice a day, monitor themselves for cough, shortness of breath. Our nurses are checking in with them twice a day in the event that they may develop symptoms over the next 14 days. If so, then we will help helping to facilitate getting them into a healthcare provider so that they can be tested.”

Farr went back to basics, describing how a person can contract the virus and how to keep from being infected.

“It is spread by droplets, very much like the flu,” she said. “When someone is coughing or sneezing, the droplets go out into the air and they land on surfaces and on people around you, which is why we’re practicing social distancing. None of us are ill but we need to get used to having that extra space between us in case one of were to become ill. We want people to stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands, disinfect your surfaces, in fact, all the things we say during every flu season, that’s the best way to protect against droplet precaution.”

The question was asked about if or when public schools would be closed due to the virus reaching Missoula.

“We work closely with all the public schools, not just MCPS, and when it comes time to make that decision, we will do so together with them as well as with all our other emergency response partners,” she said.

Farr and Health Department Director Ellen Leahy put out a call to any registered nurses, active or retired, to come forward to help during the current COVID 19 pandemic. They can apply online through the Missoula County website.

The Health Department’s COVID 19 hotline is 258-INFO (258-4636).

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