Madison County’s stay at home order for certain businesses lifted April 27 under guidelines for a phased reopening in a COVID-19 world. Bars and restaurants will have to adhere to similar rules of operation when they are allowed to open May 4.
Thanks to government-funded programs, at-home Covid-19 tests are now easier to come by. The Madison County Public Health Department recently received 1,877 two-test kits from the state which are now available at the MCPHD office in Virginia City as well as the Ennis Pharmacy and Mac’s CHC Pharmacy in Sheridan. Tests are also available at https://www.covidtests.gov/.
According to MCPHD Director Emilie Sayler, the goal is to have a test kit in every county household, noting at the Feb. 1 Madison County Commissioner meeting that Omicron is spreading rapidly, albeit often with little to no symptoms and with symptoms lasting briefly. These tests, she said, are especially helpful for those that have recently had close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
Sayler did ask that anyone picking up a test, that’s either symptomatic or who shares a household with someone that is, should call ahead to the health department or pharmacy to set up contactless pickup.
“It’s alarming, the number of people who will come directly into the office while they are actively sick or someone in their household is sick,” Sayler told commissioners. “We want to reduce those potential exposures.”
Reporting changes on the horizon
Following advice handed down from the state health department, MCPHD will shift to online case investigation next week.
Prior to the shift, when a county resident tests positive for Covid-19, they’ll receive a call from the health department for a data collection interview. In the new scenario, covid-positive individuals will receive a link to an online survey which will go to the county health department and ultimately to the state database.
The change, said Sayler, will dramatically reduce her already overloaded staff’s phone time, clearing more time for thorough data input, and most importantly, allowing the department to focus on contacting the county’s highrisk population.
If a person doesn’t complete the online survey, the health department will still follow up via telephone.
“It seems that this is probably our best bet in transitioning from pandemic response to covid to endemic response to covid,” said Sayler. “It’s really going to help us to work this into our new normal, daily workflow.”
The more readily available home tests and updated reporting guidelines come as the state reports a pandemic record-high number of active cases to start out February. Locally, a full quarter of Madison County covid tests are coming back positive.
Sayler stated that while the county reports low active cases (just 41 as of Feb. 2), she expects that number to climb in the coming days due to a lag in at-home positive tests getting reported along with a fax machine outage over the weekend.
Gov. Steve Bullock announced the phased reopening of Montana’s economy with guidelines in each phase for individuals, businesses, restaurants and schools. Local jurisdictions may enforce stricter policies moving forward.
Gov. Bullock announced a phased reopening of Montana's economy, which will begin when all directives expire April 24. More details of the gradual process will be announced next week.
The Governor’s Office released an interim analysis of COVID-19 cases as of April 10. “It sheds light on who this virus impacts, how it spreads and patient outcomes,” Gov. Steve Bullock said during a press call. The data will be used to inform decisions going forward.
Many of Madison County’s small business owners are awaiting their first glimpse of financial assistance from the federal government to combat the coronavirus’ economic blow.
Four weeks – 28 days – since the first local COVID-19 case, and the pandemic is set to peak in this area in a little over two weeks.
All motels, hotels, guest ranches, RV sites, camping, short term rentals, and guiding and outfitting services must cancel reservations for nonessential purposes on or before April 30. The Madison County Board of Public Health signed the order Thursday night.
Two more people tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Madison County over the weekend. As of the April 7, there are 319 confirmed cases of the virus in Montana. Eight Madison County residents have contracted the virus. A ninth person tested positive in a Madison County facility but is a resident to a neighboring county.
“Today I will be extending the directive to stay at home for an additional two weeks through April 24,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in an April 7 press call. All previous directives fall in line with the April 24 extension.