Lewis & Clark Public Health announce they are seeing community spread of COVID-19

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 22:09:39-04

HELENA — As of July 16th, 2020 Lewis & Clark County had nearly 50 active cases of COVID-19.

The county investigates each case. When they can trace cases back to travel, or another active case, that’s a big sign the virus is spreading in the community.

"When we have a lot of unknowns happening in our community, that's when we say that we have community spread," says Drenda Niemann, the Health Officer of Lewis & Clark Public Health.

As of July 15th, 2020, public health states there are about 30 cases in the county known to be exposed from in-state and out-of-state travel. There are 14 cases known to be exposed from another known case. That leaves 15 cases in the county with an unknown origin.

"Right now, that's a problem for us because for every case, and every set of contacts that come with that case, it's hours of work for public health to do their work for case investigations and contact tracing, which is how we contain the disease in our community," says Niemann.

Law enforcement is now involved in helping the community with the new mask order set by Governor Bullock. The Lewis & Clark Sheriff's Office says they will be involved in any mask complaints if ordered by Lewis & Clark Public Health.

"Our first responsibility is, if we get a complaint, it goes to the health department. The health department is going to notify us or they are going to take care of it as far as starting with an educational phone call," says Jason Grimmis, the Undersheriff for the Lewis & Clark Sheriff’s Office.

The City of Helena police announced on Facebook they will follow similar protocols. Anyone wanting to report a mask violation should contact Lewis and Clark Public Health. Then, they will decide if law enforcement is needed.

Public health also announced they will be working with Carroll College to help speed up the testing results of the virus.