Coronavirus 19 disease (COVID-19) & Prevention

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new respiratory disease that can spread from person-to-person. It was first identified in Wuhan, China. The virus that causes the disease, COVID-19, has been named SARS CoV 2.

There are many types of human coronaviruses. Four kinds of coronavirus circulate on a seasonal basis causing common cold symptoms. COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a new (or novel) coronavirus (SARS CoV 2) that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practices for naming of new human infectious diseases.

Info from CDC COVID-19.

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. Transmission is thought to occur the following ways:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly inhaled into the lungs.
  • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Canceling, postponing or moving online for our work, education and recreation may be inconvenient, annoying, and disappointing. But hospitals need to have enough room, supplies, and staff to care for those who need hospital-level care — whether it’s for coronavirus, a heart attack, car crash, broken bone, or birth.

This is where social distancing, sheltering at home, and wearing a face covering come in. These are tried-and-true public health methods of disease prevention. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

Social distancing means keeping a distance of 6 feet or more between you and others.

Shelter-at-home means limiting your time away from home to the essentials only (doctor visits, medicine pick-up, groceries).

Wearing a face covering in public means using a cloth face covering when you are in indoor public spaces or outside when social distancing cannot be maintained. As of July 15, 2020, face coverings are required in Gallatin County for individuals 5 years and older. The Gallatin City-County Health Department Board of Health voted to expand the state’s face covering directive to specifically include:

  • K-12 classrooms
  • While waiting in lines
  • Construction sites where social distancing cannot be maintained
  • Shelter-in-place – stay home except for the essentials (doctor visits, medicine pick-up, and groceries).
  • Keep a social distance of 6 feet or more between you and others.
  • Wear face coverings while in public. As of July 15, 2020, people in Gallatin County are required to wear a simple face covering when in indoor public spaces, such as the grocery store and pharmacy, as well as in outdoor public spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained. Face coverings should not be medical grade and can be made from common household materials. The CDC recommends tightly woven cotton such as quilting fabric or cotton sheets, and can even be made from a T-Shirt.
  • Practice healthy habits – wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, cover your cough/sneeze, and keep your environment clean.
  • Take good care of yourself: yoga, walking, eating, and sleeping well…whatever makes you feel healthy is important self care.
  • Let seniors and those with medical resiliency concerns shop during store hours designated for them. This allows those folks to meet their needs with reduced risk of exposure to the larger population.
  • Keep an eye on reliable local resources and your own email. The school district, businesses, organizations, medical providers, local governments and your City-County Health Department are all working to keep you informed of closures and updates.
  • Watch out for one another. Neighbors watching out for neighbors can mean a phone call to check in, a friendly wave, or to shovel a sidewalk.
  • Manage anxiety during the outbreak. COVID-19 is an immense challenge. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming. Empowering yourself by putting your mental health first can help manage anxiety during the outbreak. Support those you can with facts and a friendly ear, and connect those who need it with professional resources.
  • Find trusted sources that convey facts and not drama. Some of this information has been taken from the CDC’s website, particularly their pages on preparation and prevention. Your local Joint Information Center team will diligently update the City-County Health Department’s webpage and can be counted on as a reliable source of local information.

Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. This will be updated as the CDC continues to update its list as we learn more about COVID-19.

Recent studies by the CDC have shown that the virus can be transmitted before a person exhibits symptoms. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. People who are infected may also show mild or even no symptoms.

In light of this information as well as the continued spread of COVID-19 by community transmission in all many places across Montana, beginning July 15, 2020, face coverings are required across Gallatin County in indoor public spaces (e.g. grocery store, K-12 classrooms, and construction sites where social distance cannot be maintained) or in outdoor public spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained. While a cloth face cover can reduce the spread of a potential sick person before they exhibit symptoms, it is not a replacement for social distancing.

Take steps to protect yourself and others:

    • Getting vaccinated remains the most effective way to protect yourself from developing severe symptoms and death.
    • Find your COVID-19 vaccine today on our dedicated page.
  2. Get tested if you’re feeling sick
    • There are many testing facilities throughout Gallatin County.
    • Find a location nearest you on our dedicated page.
  3. Stay home
    • Especially if you’re feeling sick
  4. Wear a mask while in public indoor settings
  5. Wash your hands often
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  6. Clean and disinfect
    • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
    • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

To disinfect:
Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

Options include:

  • Diluting your household bleach. To make a bleach solution, mix:
    • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water, OR
    • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

  • Alcohol solutions.
    • Ensure solution has at least 60% alcohol.
  • Other common EPA-registered household disinfectants.
    • Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens icon claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.)

Face coverings have proven to be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. For more details, visit the CDC website.

No. There is a lot of misleading information about making homemade hand sanitizer. Some of the recipes do not provide a high enough percentage of alcohol to be effective, while others do not take into account skin protection.

Proper hand washing is still the best preventive tool. Hand sanitizers do not clean hands, and the dirtier your hands are, the less effective the hand sanitizer may be. Hand sanitizers can also be harsh on your hands, especially when made incorrectly, leading to hands that burn with subsequent hand sanitizer use.

Until better guidance is provided by CDC, make hand washing the priority or use commercially-made hand sanitizer.

Current information from the WHO and the CDC indicates that many standard household disinfectants are effective. The CDC recommends looking on disinfectant and seeing if they can “kill” SARS-like or CoV-2.

A 60% alcohol or a bleach solution of 1/3 cups per gallon of water will work. The solution should be changed daily.

Quarantine is the term used for people who may have been exposed to the disease and have not yet developed symptoms. This person is kept away from others so they don’t unknowingly infect anyone.

Isolation is the term used for people diagnosed with the disease who need to limit their contact. It keeps people infected with COVID-19 away from healthy people to prevent the sickness from spreading.

The health department will continue to monitor our community for cases and follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control for isolation and quarantine recommendations. For the most up-to-date recommendations, visit our dedicated page.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.

Refer to the CDC’s guidance if you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might be.

If a person believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, they should get tested right away to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Visit our testing page for more details. 

The test has been designed to diagnose the illness, not to screen for it.

We are mindful that the public health policies and interventions necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 are affecting all parts of society and our daily lives. These disruptions, coupled with the fear of not knowing what may come, are resulting in increased stress and anxiety for many.

There are simple evidence based and effective things you can do every day at home to protect your health.

  • Take care of your body: take deep breaths, stretch, eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Make time for activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others: reach out to people you care about to talk about your concerns and feelings.
  • Take a break! Make sure you give yourself a break from the 24-hour news cycle, news alerts and social media. It really does make a difference for your physical and mental health.

For more information, read the Stress Busting Playbook for COVID-19.

Reopening Gallatin County (Phase 2)

On Sunday, April 26, 2020 Phase One of Governor Bullock’s reopening of Montana began. Phase 1 expired on May 31, 2020.

  • Avoid gathering in groups of more than 25 people where physical distancing is not possible.
  • Groups larger than 25 people should be canceled unless physical distancing can be maintained.
  • It is recommended to continue to social distance in gatherings of any size. Physical distancing guidelines for groups and gatherings do not apply to household members.
  • Vulnerable individuals should continue to adhere to the stay-at-home guidance. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.

Beginning June 1, 2020, yoga studios, cycling studios, gyms, and other fitness facilities may hold indoor group classes.  A six foot distance should be maintained, and equipment should be disinfected after each use.

  • The 14-day quarantine requirement has been lifted for out-of-state travelers.
  • If you are traveling, monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms, self-quarantine if sick, minimize contact with others, practice good hygiene, and maintain social distancing.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule does not protect your employment records, even if the information in those records is health-related. In most cases, the Privacy Rule does not apply to the actions of an employer.

If you work for a health plan or a covered health care provider:

  • The Privacy Rule does not apply to your employment records.
  • The Rule does protect your medical or health plan records if you are a patient of the provider or a member of the health plan.

Your employer can ask you for a doctor’s note or other health information if they need the information for sick leave, workers’ compensation, wellness programs, or health insurance.

However, if your employer asks your health care provider directly for information about you, your provider cannot give your employer the information without your authorization unless other laws require them to do so. Generally, the HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to the disclosures made by your health care provider, not the questions your employer may ask.

Montana University System (MUS) campuses implemented a broad range of measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including face covering requirements, social distancing, additional cleaning protocols, hand-sanitizing and washing stations, education campaigns, and more. The Montana University System also has established a strategic and targeted system for rapid testing, contact tracing and quarantine/isolation to prevent single cases from growing into clusters and preventing clusters from growing into larger outbreaks.

Each MUS campus has links to comprehensive COVID-19 information and resources on its homepage. Links to each can be found here.

Montana State University protocols and policy can be found here.

Weekly surveillance reports include new, active, and cumulative COVID-19 cases among persons associated with Montana State University and can be found here.

As of July 15, 2020, face coverings are required in Gallatin County for individuals 5 years and older. The Gallatin City-County Health Department Board of Health voted to expand the state’s face covering directive to specifically include:

  • K-12 classrooms
  • While waiting in lines
  • Construction sites where social distancing cannot be maintained

As of May 4, 2020, restaurants, bars, casinos, breweries, and distilleries are allowed to open under strict physical distancing and reduced capacity protocols.

Patrons won’t be able sit in some places at the bar, or host a dining experience of more than 6 people, and tables will be spaced out. If you’re planning on going out, be ready to cut the evening short as all patrons must leave bars by 10:00 a.m. Call ahead, as waiting rooms may be closed.

Buffets and drink refills will no longer be available, and easily accessible tabletop condiments may be removed. Ask if your server may be able to offer alternatives.

Yes. Stylists, artists and service-providers, and clients are required to wear face coverings. As of July 15, 2020, face coverings are required in Gallatin County in indoor public spaces.

All personal care services including salons, massage, body art, and barber shops, should utilize a face mask for staff and customers whenever possible.

Child care facilities and pre-schools must follow state and local guidelines regarding operational levels and occupancy. To lower the likelihood of COVID-19 exposure in a child care facility, parents should double-check their child for any symptoms relating to COVID-19 and maintain a list of possible exposures you and your child have come in contact with.

Reducing the potential spread of COVID-19 from one child to the next protects everyone.

Yes, overnight camping opportunities were allowed to resume at most Fish, Wildlife & Parks fishing access sites and state parks starting May 1, 2020. Outdoor enthusiasts are reminded that there may be reduced amenities or limited services – especially during the normal seasonal closures  – and that social distancing guidelines must be strictly followed at all sites.

Visit the Custer Gallatin National Forest webpage for more updated information on campground openings and outdoor recreation.

Vulnerable populations – those over 65 and people with serious underlying health conditions should continue to follow the guidance in the Governor’s March 26, 2020 Stay-at-Home Directive.

Social Events and Holidays

Gatherings of 25 or more people to apply to youth activities regardless of whether they are school or community sponsored. Organizers of such activities should continue to work with the Gallatin City-County Health Department on developing appropriate safety plans in line with local and state public health directives.

No. The jurisdiction of state and local public health agencies extends to both public and private property. Groups greater than 25 currently are not advised. However, if you are planning an event with more than 25 people you should consult with the Gallatin City-County Health Department on a plan to implement adequate social distancing. Event cutoff threshold is at the discretion of community leadership based on current circumstances in that community. The face covering directive applies to indoor spaces that are open to the public, or outdoor gatherings of 25 or more people where social distancing is not possible or is not being practiced regardless of whether the gathering occurs on public or private property.

Yes, however, we recommend cafeteria style service (i.e. no self service) or using a menu card and volunteers to fill plates. Face coverings must be worn unless at your table eating. Seating should be spaced to allow 6 feet between tables. Events over 50 people should consult with the Gallatin City-County Health Department to make a plan to promote social distancing.


The quarantine for travelers arriving in Montana was part of Gov. Steve Bullock’s previous stay-at-home directive and expired May 31, 2020. There is no longer a quarantine requirement for travelers entering Montana from out of state.

Antibody Testing

You may hear it called a serosurvey or a serology test. The test looks for certain things called antibodies in your blood. Your body makes these when it fights an infection, like COVID-19. The same thing happens when you get a vaccine, like a flu shot. That’s how you develop immunity to a virus.

The antibody test isn’t checking for the virus itself. Instead, it looks to see whether your immune system — your body’s defense against illness — has responded to the infection.

Currently the State of Montana is monitoring the available options for antibody testing. At this time they are looking for an antibody test that doesn’t give false readings, also known as cross reactivity. Once the State is more confident in the reliability and results of the available tests it looks forward to using it. (Source: Governor Bullock Press Conference 4/29/2020 (minute 18:30)

Antibody tests can show how common COVID-19 is.

  • Once scientists know who has had the virus, they can find out how sick it makes most people. And they can study what happens if people who’ve had it are exposed to it again.

The key strategies for stopping the disease are still the same ones experts have been promoting from the beginning: Wash hands, clean and disinfect surfaces, social distancing, testing, contact tracing, isolating for those who test positive for COVID-19, and social distancing and best hygiene practices for everyone else.

Public health officials must make decisions today based on the most current information available – the number of individuals currently infected. While the information provided by an antibody test will help health officials develop strategies for keeping communities safe, it is not a tool for returning to “normal.”

There is no solid evidence to suggest at this point that having been infected with COVID-19 and presenting antibodies in a test means you are immune to future infection.

There are many types of coronaviruses – for many of those that we have studied for years, some of which cause the common cold – most of which infer only short-term immunity that wanes quickly, which is why people often yet the common cold year after year.

Even if it turns out that a person has some immunity, it’s unclear whether it would last weeks, months or even into the year. More research is needed.