Butte sees 20th COVID-19 death as testing resources stretched thin

Posted at 11:41 AM, Nov 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-22 13:41:27-05

Health officials in Butte are telling people with mild COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and isolate, rather than seek testing, due to testing challenges at Southwest Montana Community Health Center (CHC).

According to Serena Brewer, M.D., the CHC's medical director, people with mild symptoms should assume they are positive and stay home. People around those with mild symptoms should also quarantine.

CHC said people can call the center at 723-4075 to determine if the mild symptoms can be managed at home.

Staff shortages are contributing to the testing challenges at CHC, with 20 staff members confirmed positive for COVID-19 within the past week.

“We are doing the best we can with decreased staffing, but we certainly can't meet the demand we are seeing," Brewer said. “At this point it is so prevalent in the community, and we are just swamped."

Brewer said people in the community should stay home — which includes symptomatic people staying home from work.

Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer Karen Sullivan said medical professionals might not be able to confirm illness at this point and asked employers to work with employees reporting symptoms.

“We are asking employers in the community to understand,” Sullivan said. “The medical community at this point will be unable to provide the employer with a note certifying the employee’s absence. We are quite simply asking employees and employers to act in good faith and work together on this issue.”

The Health Department also reported Tuesday Butte-Silver Bow's 19th and 20th deaths due to COVID-19. Both were residents of Copper Ridge Health and Rehab, a long-term care facility in Butte.

“Our heartfelt sympathies and thoughts are with the residents’ families, and with the residents and staff of Copper Ridge,” Sullivan said.

Although health officials are urging those with mild symptoms to isolate at home, anyone experiencing severe COVID symptoms should seek immediate medical care by calling 911 or going to the emergency room.

Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face.

Mild COVID-19 symptoms include fever or chills; cough; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; a new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; and diarrhea.

As of Tuesday evening, the Health Department confirmed 111 new COVID-19 cases over the previous 26 hours.