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.
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.
Epidemiologists and other health experts who study and track communicable disease use all sorts of graphs and images to demonstrate how diseases spread geographically and among certain populations. The phrase, “flatten the curve” has been used recently to describe the bell shaped curve that shows up on graphs when a large number of new cases of COVID-19 develop in a short amount of time.
A surge of new cases can overwhelm medical providers, supplies, treatment space, and other resources.
Working to keep new cases from developing can reduce the risk of exposure and illness rates in our community. A flatter, lower curve is a much better one – but it will take working together to make it happen.
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”, “shelter-at-home”, and “wear 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:
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.
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.
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.
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-2019 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.
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.
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.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The measures that you take to prevent exposure to COVID-19 are the same precautions people take for seasonal influenza.
Everyone, even the young and healthy, stay home to slow the spread
Limit your trips out to the essentials (doctor visits, medicine pick up, groceries)
If you have to go out, maintain 6 feet between yourself and others
2. Clean 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.
3. Cover coughs and sneezes
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
Throw used tissues in the trash.
Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
4. If you need to leave the house for medical care and you are sick, wear a facemask.
If you are sick: Call your healthcare provider before visiting your clinic. You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room.
If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
5. 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.
Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.
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.
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.).
As of July 15, 2020, face coverings are required in Gallatin County in indoor public spaces (for example: grocery stores, pharmacies, K-12 classrooms, and construction sites where social distancing cannot be maintained) or in outdoor spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained; this does not replace the need for social distancing, which is still essential to slow the spread of COVID-19.
What should you do? Face coverings worn can be factory-made or may be handmade and improvised from ordinary household materials. Handmade or improvised face coverings should include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damage or change to shape.Wear it anytime you are in public. Remember that this does not replace social distancing or proper hand washing.
As of July 15, 2020, Governor Bullock issued a directive requiring face coverings in indoor public spaces and in outdoor gatherings where social distancing cannot be maintained. This applies to individuals ages 5 years and older. The directive expires at the end of the statewide state of emergency. Read more about the Governor’s directive here.
The Gallatin City-County Health Department Board of Health adopted a local emergency rule requiring all individuals to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces, including:
Waiting in lines
Construction sites where social distancing cannot be maintained
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.
It is believed that a 60% alcohol or a bleach solution of 1/3 cups per gallon of water or 4 tsp per quart of water will work. The bleach 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 other agencies regarding isolation and quarantine.
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.
Avoid gathering in groups of more than 50 people where physical distancing is not possible.
Groups larger than 50 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.
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 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:
While waiting in lines
Construction sites where social distancing cannot be maintained
Employers can have their staff return to the office or place of business, but should continue to encourage telework where possible, and accommodate alternative work schedules – especially for those in vulnerable populations. In addition, common areas, such as break rooms where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, should be closed or enforce strict social distancing protocols.
Patrons won’t be able sit in some places at the bar, or host a dining experience of more than 10 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 12:30 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.
Child care facilities and pre-schools will be allowed to reopen but 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. If you or your child have traveled outside of Montana, your child should not go to daycare for 14 days after they’ve returned home.
Reducing the potential spread of COVID-19 from one child to the next protects everyone.
Per Governor Bullock’s Reopening plan, schools have the option to reopen after May 7, 2020. However, the decision to reopen is up to the individual school. Please reach out to your school if you’d like to know more about their plans for the future.
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 until May 15 – and that social distancing guidelines must be strictly followed at all sites.
On September 4, Governor Bullock extended the limitation on gatherings of 50 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.
As things stand presently, kids could still go trick-or-treating, but should wear face coverings (those aged 5 and older), and should social distance as much as possible. Those handing out candy should also wear face coverings and practice good sanitation and hygiene throughout the course of the occasion.
No. The jurisdiction of state and local public health agencies extends to both public and private property. Groups greater than 50 currently are not advised. However, if you are planning an event with more than 50 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 50 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.
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)
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 next flu season. More research is needed.