Quarantine questions

Frustrated community members sound off at special commission meeting

The meeting room of the Madison County administrative building overflowed on Sept. 17 as community members filed in for a special commission meeting addressing the county’s quarantine process. Online, 60 more tuned in for the discussion which included input from Madison County’s school district leaders.

Over the course of more than 90 minutes Madison County Commissioners and Public Health Director Emilie Sayler listened to a wide range of input: a retired pharmacist who questioned the safety of vaccines in youth, touting nutrition and vitamin D3 as a possible treatment for covid; a former county commissioner pointing his finger at politics; a former district representative calling for a protection of individual rights; a café owner who watched on as students who should have been in quarantine opted to go out for lunch, sharing a straw despite one of the two showing symptoms of a covid infection.

In other words, the discussion got off topic quickly, bouncing from scientific studies on vaccine efficacy and side effects toa accusations pointed at health care officials regarding mask wearing. Through it all, though, was a palpable level of frustration for all involved.

The county’s school superintendents also expressed their concerns and frustrations – the current quarantine process being high on their list. The school leaders have had played an integral part in the contact tracing and quarantining of staff and students, as, per the current quarantine process, they assist the county public health department with close contact tracing.

 Ennis School District superintendent Casey Klasna conveyed his concerns over his role in sending students home for quarantine. Klasna described the stress, confusion and division his kids, parents and students face. His junior high was currently without 50 or so of its students who were out of class for more than a week due to quarantine.

Klasna said he’s fortunate his kids are old enough to stay home alone during quarantines, but he knows of many families without that luxury. It’s a scenario that’s hard for him to witness, especially if the kids being sent home are healthy.

“I understand this pandemic is amongst us, I understand that there’s the other side, with asymptomatic children, I get that 100%, and I don’t know the right answer on that,” said Klasna. “But we’ve got to find a way to get our kids in school.”

Structure from the top – the commissioners – was what Klasna was requesting, hoping that they could offer more consistent guidelines following an upcoming Madison County Public Health Board meeting to be held Sept. 21 where the board will form a recommendation regarding the quarantine process, specific to COVID-19, for commissioners to address.

According to state law, the county health board can offer their recommendations regarding the quarantine process to the county commissioners who can vote to make changes.

Currently, when someone tests positive for COVID-19 the results are sent to the county health department. With a rise in cases the county is currently prioritizing contacts, reaching our first to individuals with relation to schools and nursing homes. The sick individual is contacted, asked for their close contacts and placed into a 10-day isolation period which commences when symptoms begin.

The infected individual’s close contacts are placed into a twoweek quarantine while they’re monitored for symptoms. If, after 10 days, no symptoms arise, the close-contact quarantine comes to an end. If symptoms do arise within the 10 days, the quarantine lasts the full two weeks.

When it comes to a sick student, the district’s superintendent is contacted and is responsible for determining the infected student’s close contacts who then follow the aforementioned quarantine and monitoring process.

Following the Sept. 21 health board meeting Madison County Commissioners can address the board’s recommendation – accepting, amending or rejecting the recommendation. The commissions next regular meeting will be held Oct. 4 at 9:30 a.m., though there is potential for a special meeting to be held following public notice.

Prior to the health board meeting Sayler offered her thoughts on what the board’s recommendation might entail. While she could not make any predictions, Sayler said she expected the board, comprised of credentialled medical professionals, will look at what’s currently being experienced by the county’s medical professionals – bed availability, testing demands, severity of sickness – making a recommendation based on that.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re very conservative in their recommendation,” said Sayler, recognizing school community’s concerns alongside others’ concerns over a current rise in hospitalizations in the county. “It really is a ripple effect. We have a lot of kids who, fortunately are having just mild cold symptoms, but they’re infecting others, and it’s now reaching those folks that are higher risk of having moderate to severe illness.”

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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