Missoula County Officials Provide COVID-19 Retrospective
Once a month the Missoula County Commissioners travel to the KGVO studios for ‘County Talk’ where all three commissioners answer questions from KGVO's listening and website audiences.
On Tuesday’s show, the featured guest was Missoula City-County Health Department Director D’Shane Barnett, who kicked off the retrospective look at the COVID-19 pandemic with how the health department began its response.
“FEMA, The Federal Emergency Management Agency has what's called the Incident Command System,” began Barnett. “With that, the health department implemented the Incident Command System, and where we had to pull staff from their regular jobs. And so we know there was more than a year where a lot of regular health department functions just had to be sort of set aside because everything went into the COVID response.”
When the COVID vaccines arrived, Barnett described his reaction to the process of getting shots in arms.
“How I would describe that process was ‘beautiful organized chaos’,” he said. “So at the time I was the Director at the All Nations Indian Health Center and we also were part of the pandemic response. We were receiving our vaccine through the Indian Health Service, the county was receiving their vaccine through the state, and the problem was in how could we get the vaccine out as quickly as possible with a limited supply to the people who need it most, but still get it to everybody by tomorrow, but don't give it out because we don't know how much we're going to have. Wow, it was a struggle.”
Commissioner Josh Slotnick said one of the best decisions the county made was to turn over the command to Office of Emergency Management Director Adriane Beck.
“The structure we arrived at was to hand this deep logistics job over to Adriane Beck who runs our Office of Emergency Management,” said Slotnick. “Adriane is super good at standing up new structures and working within that incident command world and basically making things happen. And she did. It was a total success. In quick order we were able to get a vaccine clinic stood up at the fairgrounds, as well as this drive thru testing setup on the west side of the valley.”
Slotnick also described the evolution that occurred during the pandemic as city and county governments worked through the day to day changes occurring during the pandemic.
“At the beginning of this pandemic, we were in a time where we were learning scientifically about this thing as we experienced it in real time in a matter of days,” he said. “So that what that meant was what we believed on day one was a little bit different than what we thought was the scientific truth on day 24 and then different again from day 52. I think we didn't communicate to the public very well the fact that science isn't directly linear in terms of progress. It bounces around as we as we experience trial and error. I think what happened was that people became less confident in science and less confident in experts and more confident in their own gut.”
Click here to hear the entire County Talk episode on Talk Back.