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6 weeks since last COVID-19 case in L&C County, Public Health says stay the course

Posted at 6:14 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 20:27:58-04

HELENA — Lewis and Clark Public Health are anticipating the county will follow the Governor’s plan for phase two of reopening beginning June 1st.

“We are in a place in Lewis and Clark County where we get to celebrate just a little bit,” said Lewis and Clark County Health Officer Drenda Niemann. “We have not had a new case in Lewis and Clark County in six weeks as of [May 21].”

Since March, Lewis and Clark County has seen 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19. All of the individuals that tested positive are now fully recovered, according to Lewis and Clark Public Health.

The County’s reopening criteria is based upon testing an medical treatment capacity, number of COVID cases and public compliance with COVID guidelines.

Niemann says most of the criteria areas are in the green, but there are a couple that could use improvement.

Lewis and Clark Public Health is still operating at surge capacity as employees are assigned to COVID response.

The County has also received 161 complaints of businesses not following COVID-19 guidelines since the county implemented phase one of reopening through the week of May 21.

“Thankfully most of those complaints we have been able to resolve with just an educational call,” said Niemann. “Most of the time it was just not understanding the directive, or trying to be creative in how to comply in a situation. We have been very fortunate we’ve had businesses in the community who have worked very closely with us and are willing to make those adjustments to protect their staff and the community.”

Phase two comes with the lifting of the mandatory two week quarantine of people visiting from out of state.

Niemann says more visitors is certainly a concern.

“It does put us at a little more risk in our state and I anticipate that we’ll see some cases come because of that,” said Niemann, “but I think we really need in our county, and across the state, to really pivot to individual responsibility and just stay vigilant and remember our good practices.”

Niemann recognizes that many Montana communities depend on tourism. Lewis and Clark Public Health has been working directly with businesses and communities who may see increased traffic from out of state.

“We’ve been really brainstorming ways to help with travelers coming in,” said Niemann. “We’re going to work really closely with those businesses to protect their employees, their communities and those travelers coming in.”

Public health would also like to remind everyone that we are still under phase one restrictions this Memorial Day weekend.

People are asked to continue social distancing, practice good hygiene and avoid groups of 10 people or more.