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COVID-19 updates

There is an overwhelming amount of information available that is related to COVID-19. Following are some guidelines all residents should practice.

First, social distancing – keeping six feet between you and everyone else. Washing your hands, and not touching your face are essential to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. These preventative measures should be practiced at all times, especially when leaving your home.

Secondly, follow the directions of Carter County Public Health and the Governor. Governor Bullock enacted new directives recently that will help curtail the transmission of the virus. On March 30th, Bullock put into place a mandate for people traveling to Montana for non-work-related purposes to self-quarantine for 14 days. However, Carter County Public Health requests that anyone who lives in Carter County and has traveled for anything non-essential to an area with known community spread of the virus self-quarantine for 14 days. For example, if you didn't know about the "stay at home" directive and went to Billings last weekend to visit family, self-quarantine would start the day you returned to Carter County and would end 14 days later.

Self-quarantine means you do NOT leave your premises for 14 days, except to get some exercise, like going for a walk. However, it also means you avoid contact with all other people, except those you live with. You need to find a friend or family member who is not quarantined to deliver your mail and groceries to your home. But, they need to leave the items outside. You can retrieve them after they leave.

On March 26th, the Governor enacted a directive that ALL Montanans stay home except to gather essential items or to go to work at essential businesses. The directive also included that all non-essential businesses close. Also, any gathering of people outside of their home is prohibited – even if social distancing is in place.

There have been people tested for COVID-19 in Carter County. As of Wednesday morning, there have been no positive cases. Because the number of testing kits is limited, there are specific criteria that a person must meet before they are tested. Some of the requirements that lead to testing for COVID-19 include: being in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, being in an area with COVID-19 community spread, being hospitalized and having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or having symptoms of COVID-19 and being a healthcare worker, law enforcement, EMT or a high-risk individual.

The specimen is collected in Ekalaka by a nurse, then transported to the Montana Public Health Laboratory in Helena. The nurse collects the sample from the patient by using a swab, inserting the swab to the back of the nasal cavity, then placing it into a tube for transportation. The actual test is performed at the Montana Public Health Lab. The healthcare provider who ordered the test will have the result of the test within 48-72 hours.

Carter County Public Health is notified when there is a person suspected of having COVID-19 as soon as a healthcare provider orders a test. The public health nurse then begins an investigation by calling the patient and obtaining information that includes everywhere they were for fourteen days before symptoms started. This helps determine where they may have contracted the virus. The nurse also determines everyone the patient was in contact with after their symptoms started; people the patient may have transmitted the virus to.

As soon as the patient leaves the testing site, they are instructed to self-isolate at home. Any family members that live with the patient are also required to self-quarantine. The public health nurse also determines if there are people the patient has been in contact with who are at high risk of exposure, and will call them to explain the situation and advise a self-quarantine until results of the test are received.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath. If you are experiencing any symptoms and are concerned you may have been exposed to COVID-19; please call Dahl Memorial Healthcare Association at 406-775-8730. Call any day of the week; there is always someone there to talk with about your situation.

If you have a Facebook account, check out the Carter County Public Health, Dahl Memorial Healthcare Association and Carter County DES pages, as new information is posted as soon as possible. Call Carter County Public Health at 406-775-6332 with any questions about COVID-19, to fact check information or to voice any concerns.


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