HELENA — Lewis and Clark Public Health leaders say they are operating under the assumption that the coronavirus is present in the community – and that there will be “community spread” in the area.
“Community spread simply means that we don’t know where people are picking up the virus – it could be anywhere,” said communications manager Gayle Shirley. “It’s not just travelers who’ve come home that you need to be wary of.”
Shirley said almost half of the reported cases in Lewis and Clark County so far aren’t tied to any travel outside the area. Leaders also believe there are likely more people in the county who are infected but haven’t been tested.
Shirley said the possibility of community spread is a reminder of the need for county residents to continue “social distancing.”
On Tuesday, Lewis and Clark Public Health announced the process they and local law enforcement will follow to enforce Gov. Steve Bullock’s order to stay at home, except for essential activities. If Public Health receives a complaint about an individual or business, they will check in with them to ensure they are following the order. If there are additional complaints, the health department could issue a warning, and law enforcement could eventually issue citations of up to $500 a day for non-compliance.
Shirley said there have been reports of people not social distancing, and they are asking everyone to take the issue seriously.
“We’re hearing a lot of anecdotal evidence, and so we’re trying to use education and information, like this interview, to let people know how serious it is,” she said. “It really truly is the best tool we have in our toolbelt right now. And we do need to stop the spread, because if all of us get sick at one time, we’re not going to have anyone to go to to help us.”
Shirley said Public Health leaders are also hoping that more testing supplies and more personal protective equipment will soon become available in Lewis and Clark County.
You can find more information from Lewis and Clark Public Health, including a link to community resources that are assisting during this time, here.