Missoula health officer updates order to allow more businesses to open

Health Department

Missoula Health Officer Ellen Leahy today issued an update to her April 24 order as part of the gradual reopening plan for Missoula County. The main updates to the order include:

  • Businesses and individuals providing grooming, beauty, body art, piercing, massage, spa and similar services to open Monday, May 11. These entities can open as long as they create a service plan that supports employee health screening,
    social distancing, face-covering use, and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing.
  • The limit on events and gatherings such as fairs, concerts, races and sporting events, and private parties outside the home was raised to 50 people. Events with 50 or fewer must maintain six-foot social distancing. This does not replace the governor’s requirement to limit groups to 10 people when distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Farmers markets may open for the sale of unprocessed agricultural products starting Saturday, May 23. The market must have a plan to support social distancing, including the flow of customers and limiting the number of people in the market at one time. Vendors must space tables six feet apart. Vendors, employees, and volunteers are required to screen for symptoms and have provisions for personal hygiene and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing.
  • Schools may hold graduation, providing that they have a plan to keep families separated by six feet and can limit the total number of people to 250 based on guidance for large gatherings. The schools must provide a plan to support social distancing, personal hygiene and sanitation.

The local orders will remain in place until the governor moves to Phase Two, or the health officer rescinds or modifies them.

Gov. Bullock’s announcement on May 7 regarding the opening of gyms, fitness studios, some pools, movie theaters, and non-tactile museums are not affected by the local order.

These facilities may open Friday, May 15, providing they can follow the requirements outlined by the governor.

“We are at a different place than we were on April 24 when the original orders were issued,” said Cindy Farr, incident commander with the Missoula City-County Health Department’s COVID-19 response. “We had nine active cases. We were still getting new cases of COVID, and we were following two dozen close contacts. We are now at zero active cases and haven’t had a new case in over two weeks.”

Farr adds that while the outbreak appears to be winding down that COVID-19 is still a risk. The health department encourages community members to practice personal and community protective measures. Monitoring for symptoms, staying home when sick, washing hands, social distancing, and staying home as much as possible are still prevention measures that matter.

Additionally, the Health Board’s recommendation for wearing cloth face coverings in public spaces can decrease community spread.

“Keeping cases down at this point comes down to behavior and contact tracing. We can do the contact tracing and provide guidance to our community, but we still need the community’s help,” said Farr.

“Behavior matters. Social distancing and helping businesses and organizations follow the provisions is not only helpful for them but helpful for the community.”

For detailed descriptions of what these businesses will need to do to safely reopen, check out the health department’s guide online at missoula.co/reopeningmissoulacounty. If you have questions about how the local orders affect your business or organization, please call 406-258-4755.

Health officer issues order for more gradual reopening in Missoula County

Health Department

Missoula Health Officer Ellen Leahy issued an order Friday providing additional guidance and restrictions to accompany the statewide Reopening the Big Sky plan Gov. Steve Bullock outlined earlier this week.

The order enhances sections of the governor’s plan and provides for a more gradual reopening process. It intends to protect public health and Missoula’s healthcare hub, our communities, and our essential businesses, services and workers. It will also allow local public health to develop guidance for businesses during this transition.

The key components of the order include:

  • Events are limited to 25 people. During Phase One, which begins Monday, April 27, events and gatherings such as, but not limited to, fairs, festivals, markets (including farmers’ markets), concerts, sporting events, races and private parties outside the home must be limited to 25 people during Phase One. A 6-foot physical distance between participants must be maintained. If this distancing cannot be maintained, then these gathers are limited to 10 people, per the governor’s directive.
  • Salons, spas, body art, grooming and similar services must remain closed. Hair and nail salons, barbershops, spas, tattoo parlors, massage parlors and other businesses and individuals providing grooming, beauty, body art, piercing, massage and similar services will remain closed until Phase Two. Massage therapy affiliated with licensed physical therapy and chiropractor services is exempt from this requirement.
  • Retail businesses must take additional measures to reopen. Retail business, formerly deemed “non-essential” and required to be closed during the stay-at-home directive, may reopen to only curbside pick-up and delivery on Monday, April 27. These businesses may resume in-store services on Friday, May 1, if all the requirements below are met. The following requirements also apply to essential retail businesses that continued operations under the statewide stay-at-home directive:
    • At any given time, the maximum number of customers must be 50% of usual business capacity
    • Measures to protect customers and staff waiting in line at checkout counters, such as visible markers or signs denoting six-foot separation or temporary barriers, are in place
    • Staff have received training on practicing good hygiene, maintaining physical distancing, recognizing symptoms of COVID-19, and not reporting to work or remaining at work if experiencing symptoms;
    • Businesses must develop and implement an individualized plan addressing the requirements in the governor’s re-opening directive and this order. Businesses must keep the completed plan on-site and make it available to the Missoula City-County Health Department upon request.
  • Eating and drinking establishments must adhere to requirements to reopen. Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos may reopen on Monday, May 4, as long as all the guidelines outlined in the governor’s directive can be met. The main difference here between the state plan and the Missoula County approach is that the guidelines outlined in the governor’s plan will be requirements in Missoula County. If establishments cannot meet these requirements, they must remain closed during Phase One. In addition, these establishments also must provide for at least 6 feet of separation between diners and groups of diners, including those sitting in booths.

These measures will remain in effect until the governor moves the state to Phase Two re-opening (the date for which has not been determined) or until this order is revoked or revised based on review of epidemiological data, testing availability and public health and medical capacity to control the spread of the virus and treat COVID-19.

To read the full order and access additional guidance, head to missoula.co/cvirus. If you have questions about how the local orders affect your business or organization, you can call 406-258-4755.

“We know that there are cases in our county that have not been identified and are concerned that we could see a spike in cases if we loosen restrictions too quickly and without a plan,” said Cindy Farr, incident commander with the Missoula City-County Health Department’s COVID-19 response. “We need to take a measured approach to reopening in Missoula for the sake of the public’s health.”

Farr also added that the measures, while delaying some openings, will help minimize the chances of future closures or workforce impacts if cases increase.

“What we don’t want is for businesses to invest in getting back on track, only to be affected again,” Farr said. “Taking the time, providing guidance and moving methodically is important.”

The health department recognizes that loosening any restriction is likely to contribute to case numbers but knows restrictions long-term are not practical. Working with businesses and the community to create a “new normal” in the era of the pandemic is essential.

Since Wednesday, the health department received more than 200 comments from community members, business owners and essential workers. About 90% of the comments asked for additional local measures, particularly to slow the reopening of the businesses that are covered in the order.

Under the governor’s directive, public schools in Montana will have the option to reopen starting Thursday, May 7. The decision to reopen will be up to individual school districts, including Missoula County Public Schools and other districts in the county. The Board of Trustees for MCPS, the largest district in the county, plans to make that decision on Friday, May 1.

Along with these measures, the department encourages community members to practice personal and community protective measures. Monitoring for symptoms, staying home when sick, washing hands, social distancing, and staying home as much as possible are still prevention measures that matter. Additionally, the Health Board’s recommendation for wearing cloth face coverings in public spaces where social distancing is hard may decrease community spread.

“Keeping cases down at this point comes down to behavior and contact tracing,” Farr said. “We can do the contact tracing and provide guidance to our community, but we still need the community’s help. It is going to take all of us supporting each other to keep COVID-19 down. We’ve weathered this storm as well as we have because of community thinking, and that’s what’s going to continue to matter.”

COVID-19 and mental health: Missoula County resources

Mental health

These are difficult times, and it is natural and normal to be experiencing strong feelings. There are a lot of changes and directives coming at us right now, but one thing we want to make sure you do is be gentle with yourself and take some time for your mental health.

The Missoula City-County Health Department has compiled the following resources for anyone experiencing changes in their mental health. There are a lot of great online resources available as well as crisis and warm lines ready for your call. Please also take advantage of telehealth options with your therapists and counselors.

▪National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

▪Crisis Text Line: Text “MT” to 741-741
▪Missoula City-County Health Suicide Prevention office: 406-258-3881
▪Western Montana Mental Health Center: 406-532-8949
▪Montana Warmline (877-688-3377) is available 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. for people with a mental illness who want to talk to a peer who is in recovery for their own mental illness: http://montanawarmline.org
▪Shatter Proof has resources to help those dealing with substance abuse disorder during this time of COVID: https://www.shatterproof.org
▪Online meditation and calming apps such https://insighttimer.com/ and https://www.calm.com/ can be helpful.
▪Partners in Health has advice for maintaining mental health while social distancing: https://www.pih.org/article/10-mental-health-tips-coronavirus-social-distancing

Take care of yourself, and take care of each other. We’ll get through this!

Missoula health officials close bars, limit food service to prevent COVID-19 spread

social distancing

The Missoula City-County health officer issued an order closing bars and limiting restaurant service starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, through 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 24.

The order comes on the heels of CDC guidance to restrict events to fewer than 50 people, and the growing evidence supporting social distancing, or the avoidance of large groups of people and close contact. Other jurisdictions in Montana are doing the same, including Butte, as well as elected officials across the country.

“I know that this is a big ask with Saint Patty’s day tomorrow, but this is not a typical time,” said Health Officer Ellen Leahy. “This is a global pandemic of a new virus that spreads easily from person-to-person, and we need everyone’s help in curbing it.”

While the order prohibits the operation of bars and dine-in food service, the order does allow for limited operation via drive-thru, take out and delivery service. It also doesn’t include food services that are a sole source of food for a population such as nursing homes, UM dining or hospitals. Food services that operate in a limited capacity need to follow the food service regulations and additional guidance from the health department.

With two presumptive positive COVID-19 tests in Missoula County over the weekend and other cases across the state, the order is timely, especially in light of Gov. Steve Bullock ordering K-12 schools to close statewide.

“We appreciate the cooperation of the businesses affected,” Leahy said. “One of the great things about Missoula is the community-minded approach of the business community. Working together, we can minimize the impact on Missoula’s health and the economy.”

For the latest updates on COVID-19 in Missoula County, visit missoula.co/cvirus or call 406-258-INFO from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Missoula medical clinics set up focused screening centers for COVID-19

COVID questions

With COVID-19 cases now confirmed in Montana, including two in Missoula County, two Missoula medical clinics are operating focused screening centers to care for patients with respiratory and flu-like symptoms.

The focused screening centers are located at:

Community FirstCare (North Reserve Only)
2230 N. Reserve St., Suite 402
Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Call the complementary 24/7 Nurse on Call for symptom evaluation, 406-327-4770. Patients with symptoms should call in advance of visiting the hospital or any clinic.
Check-in online: http://www.communityfirstcare.com

Providence Grant Creek Walk-In Clinic
3075 N. Reserve St., Suite Q
Hours 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
If the patient is experiencing symptoms, please call in advance: 406-327-1750

Only people experiencing fever, difficulty breathing, cough and other respiratory and flu-like symptoms should access these focused screening centers. Patients with a primary medical provider should still call that office first before visiting a focused screening center.

The Missoula City-County Health Department continues to work with Community Medical Center, Partnership Health Center, Providence St. Patrick Hospital, Western Montana Clinic and other health professionals to share information and best practices to ensure specific strategies can be deployed that work best for our community. COVID-19 is new, but disaster response is not. Missoula hospitals and health systems conduct emergency preparedness training regularly. Medical providers treat patients with infectious diseases every day, so protocols are already in place to care for these patients while ensuring the safety of medical staff, visitors and the community.

Based on the experiences of other communities with confirmed cases, most people who become infected with COVID-19 will not become seriously ill and will not need hospitalization or even a trip to the emergency room or medical clinic. Emergency care is a precious resource that should be reserved for those with the most serious symptoms.

What the public needs to know:

  • Follow advice from public health officials, including social distancing (avoiding large groups of people — the CDC currently recommending canceling or postponing events of 50 people or more). Also take common steps like washing your hands for 20 seconds, not touching your face, staying home when you are sick, coughing or sneezing into an elbow or a tissue and throwing it away immediately. Check out missoula.co/cvirus for more information.
  • If you are sick, stay home and manage symptoms as you would any cold. Wipe down all “high-touch” surfaces daily (phones, counters, keyboards, doorknobs, etc.), try to use a separate bathroom from the rest of the family and avoid close contact with family members and pets.
  • If your symptoms become worse (fever, difficulty breathing and/or a cough), contact one of the focused screening centers listed above. Please note that the health department is not a focused screening center.
  • Wearing medical masks when not indicated is an unnecessary cost, could deprive access for medical providers and healthcare workers, and provide a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures, such as hand hygiene practices.
  • The Missoula City-County Health Department hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to answer any questions or concerns. Call 406-258-INFO (4636).
  • Most cases of COVID-19 will not need emergency care or hospitalization.

Steps to take if you are well:

  • Practice social distancing. Avoid large groups, which includes restaurants, concerts and other public gatherings.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
  • Wipe down all “high-touch” surfaces daily (phones, counters, keyboards, doorknobs, etc.).
  • Continue to see your medical provider for your regularly scheduled visits to address all other health care needs. Please do not neglect your existing needs.
  • If you are otherwise healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 or if you show symptoms of COVID-19.

Steps to take if you develop upper respiratory symptoms:

  • Stay home when you are sick and manage symptoms as you would any cold.
  • Try to use a separate bathroom from the rest of the family and avoid close, prolonged contact with family members and pets.
  • Cough or sneeze into an elbow or a tissue and throw it away immediately.
  • If you have a mask or handkerchief available to you and must go out in public, please wear the mask while you are away from your home.
  • Call your medical provider before coming in to be seen.

Other Missoula healthcare resources include:

Community Medical Center: Call the complementary 24/7 Nurse on Call for symptom evaluation, 406-327-4770. Patients with symptoms should call in advance of visiting the hospital or any clinic.

Partnership Health Center: Patients with symptoms should call the main line at 406-258-4789 before visiting a PHC site.

Providence Clinics – Call your primary care clinic for symptom evaluation. After hours/weekends, call the main clinic number or 1-855-PMG-TEAM (1-855-764-8326) for nurse on call.

Western Montana Clinic – Call your primary care provider first 406-721-5600 before arriving for symptomatic evaluation.

Cost Care – Call the clinic at 406-728-5841 before arriving for evaluation.

With the threat of a new illness in our state that could cause a surge of patients, we need the help of everyone to keep our most sensitive populations safe. Please be diligent with social distancing, washing hands, staying home when sick and coughing and sneezing into an elbow or tissue.

Additional information about the coronavirus is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the Montana Department of Health and Human Services website and the Missoula City County Health Department website.

Accessing Missoula County services amid COVID-19 concerns

COVID questions

UPDATE, Tuesday, April 7:

  • Justice Court is taking steps to reduce unnecessary public contact. Please review the Justice of the Peace Standing Order for details regarding court operations. Please call the court at 406-258-3470 or email jpinfo@missoulacounty.us for more information.
    • Court appearances: Do not come to court. Justice Court is currently not holding in-person appearances. All court hearings are by telephone or video.
    • Pleadings (documents to be filed with the court) may be placed in the dropbox outside the courthouse, electronically filed or mailed to the court.
    • If you do not contest the charge, most tickets can be paid by calling 406-258-3470 or online at http://citepayusa.com without seeing a judge.
    • People who received a citation to appear should call or email. You may either make an appointment to appear by phone or continue your case to a later date.

UPDATE, Tuesday, March 31:

  • Commissioners and county staff are making changes to public meetings to encourage physical distancing. All public, administrative and department meetings will be held via Microsoft Teams meetings through April. The administrative and public meetings will be recorded. Members of the public and media can call in via a Microsoft Teams meeting link or a conference phone line listed on the top of each meeting agenda.
  • A Microsoft Teams meeting link and dial in information will be listed at the top of each meeting agenda.
  • Once called in, participants should mute their phones or computers unless speaking to eliminate background noise.
  • This information and the administrative and public meeting schedule are online at missoula.co/bccmeetings. MCAT will not stream the Thursday public meetings live, but the video will be uploaded to their Channel 190 after the meetings. Administrative and public meeting videos will also be uploaded to missoula.co/bccmeetings and to Missoula County’s YouTube channel.

UPDATE, Friday, March 27: 

In light of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s stay at home directive effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 28, through Friday, April 10, and in collaboration with Missoula County elected officials and department heads, changes to Missoula County’s delivery of services are outlined below.

  • County public buildings will be closed to the public through the duration of the order, effective Monday, March 30. Those buildings include the courthouse, administration building, Relationship Violence Services, the health departmentCommunity and Planning Services and Public Works.
  • Buildings that were already closed to the public will remain so, including the librarysuperintendent of schoolshistorical museumrecords center and the fairgrounds.
  • County staff considered essential will alternate work schedules and continue working remotely as much as possible to minimize contact and adhere to physical distancing directives. Essential county staff who will continue to report to work in person include incident response, law enforcement, 9-1-1 dispatchers, court staff, public health, public works, technology, financial services, commissioners and commissioners’ support, and communications. Other staff will still be available to answer questions and serve the public remotely via telephone and email and will conduct business using online resources and the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible throughout the closure.
  • Check Missoula County department webpages for more information specific to their operations and changes to services. You can also call Missoula County at 721-5700 to connect with any department and learn more about adjustments to their operations.
  • Missoula County continues to contract with vendors to provide services for public activities such as elections, utility maintenance and construction and encourages them to follow all CDC and local guidelines to ensure physical distancing.

ORIGINAL POST, Sunday, March 15: 

With confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our community, Missoula County is encouraging the public to practice social distancing, i.e. limiting exposure to large groups in confined spaces. Many county departments have closed their facilities to the public or have altered service delivery in other ways to help stop the spread of the disease.

Below is a rundown of current service changes and how to access them online or by phone. It will be updated regularly. Thank you for your patience during this time and for taking steps to help curb the spread of the illness in our community.

Clerk and Recorder/Treasurer

The Clerk and Recorder/Treasurer is currently providing all services by phone at 406-258-4752 or online:

Title a vehicle purchased from a dealer: http://missoula.co/titlebyemail
Renew vehicle registration: http://missoula.co/registrationrenewal
Pay property taxes: http://missoula.co/paytaxes
Request vital records: http://missoula.co/vitalrecords
Record documents: http://missoula.co/erecording
Search documents: http://missoula.co/searchpublicrecords

Clerk of Court

Clerk of District Court staff will assist customers by phone at 406-258-4780 or email at  clerkofcourt@missoulacounty.us. Customers who are better served in our office will be required to follow posted guidelines.

Pro se litigants: email paperwork to clerkofcourt@missoulacounty.us (fee waived)
Apply for a marriage license: http://missoula.co/marriagelicense

Community and Planning Services

Offices closed to the public until further notice.

Planning, zoning and permit inquiries: 406-258-4642, zoner@missoulacounty.us
Other questions: 406-258-4657, caps@missoulacounty.us

County Attorney’s Office

Use customer service window and maintain 6-foot distance from other customers.

Crime Victim Advocate Program

CVA is limiting in-person services to 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Services will be provided at the front window, one person at a time. If someone is currently being helped, please wait outside. Please call or email for assistance if you can. Advocates are available over the phone and email all day. 

Phone: 406-258-3830
Email: cva@missoulacounty.us
Website: https://www.missoulacounty.us/cva

Anyone in an emergency situation should call 9-1-1. Additionally, the YWCA of Missoula has a 24/7 Crisis Line: 406-542-1944.

District Court

District Court* judges have issued distributed an administrative order regarding court functions.

*District Court is a function of state government

Elections Office

The Elections Office is open to public but requests that voters use the drop box outside to return voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications and other documents, excluding ballots. The office requests that no more than two people are inside the office at a time. The office is encouraging all voters to register to vote by mail. The office will mail fliers to all polling place voters with an absentee ballot application that they can return by mail, postage paid.

Access forms online: www.missoulavotes.com 

Environmental Health

Information Desk is temporarily closed, but staff can answer questions by phone or email.

Call: 406-258-4755
Email: envhealth@missoulacounty.us

Those showing no symptoms of illness (especially coughing, fever or shortness of breath) can still come into the office to drop off or pick up water bottles, to drop off applications, etc. Front desk staff will maintain the social distancing practice of 6 feet separation between themselves and the customer.

Sanitarians will still do site evaluations, groundwater monitoring, complaint investigations, sanitation application reviews, site visits, building and zoning permit signoffs and will issue and inspect well and septic permits.  On-site inspectors will maintain the 6-foot social distancing separation.

GIS Department

Access services online:

Property Information System: http://missoula.co/propertyinfo
Address assignment: http://missoula.co/addressing
Road naming: http://missoula.co/roadnaming
Online map viewers: http://missoula.co/onlinemaps
GIS data downloads: http://missoula.co/datadownloads
Download maps: http://missoula.co/downloadmaps
Land records research: https://gis.missoulacounty.us/Research

Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

Closed until at least Monday, March 30. All events through May 3 postponed.

Justice Court

Residents should not come to the courthouse. Call the court at 406-258-3470 or email jpinfo@missoulacounty.us to address all issues.

Missoula Fairgrounds

All public gathering and events on the Fairgrounds, including at the ice rinks and election judge training, are canceled or postponed until after Monday, March 30. The Fairgrounds office also will be closed until March 30, with staff working remotely. Email fairgrounds@missoulacounty.us.

Missoula Public Library

Closed until further notice. Starting Thursday, March 19, lending services will end until further notice. Items cannot be returned during closure. The library will extend hold periods and waive overdue fines.

Updates and access to the digital collection: https://www.missoulapubliclibrary.org/

Partnership Health Center

Changes to the downtown clinic (Creamery Building):

  • If you have a cough, fever, or shortness of breath, we ask that you call our main line, 406-258-4789, before visiting one of our facilities.
  • All patients and visitors will be asked several questions related to COVID-19 symptoms prior to entering facilities. We ask that you please arrive at least 10 minutes early to your appointment.
  • In an effort to decrease exposure to illness, all PHC group meetings are being postponed.  If you participate in a PHC meeting or group, we will reach out to you directly with more specific information.
  • Our Patient-Family Advisory Council gathers have been postponed until further notice.
  • Our Clothing Closet will be closed until further notice.
  • Missoula Aging services appointments at Partnership Health Center are now canceled, with opportunities for phone calls as needed. Please call 406-258-4519 with any questions or concerns.
  • If you currently participate in behavioral health services, please note that all visits have moved to phone check-ins until further notice.
  • Dental services at our main facility (Creamery Building) will continue as normal until further notice. If you have a cough, fever, or shortness of breath, please call 406-258-4185 to reschedule.
  • Pharmacy services will continue as normal until further notice.

Changes at satellite clinics:

  • Western Montana Mental Health Center PHC Satellite Clinic: Closed until further notice.
  • Poverello Center Satellite Clinic: Will have limited staff and will is coordinating closely with our Creamery clinic.
  • Superior: Dental services postponed until further notice.  Behavioral health visits will be postponed or conducted remotely.  PHC will contact patients to discuss rescheduling or remote visit options.
  • Seeley Swan Medical Center: Will continue operating as normal. If you have a cough, fever or shortness of breath, please call 406-677-2277 before visiting. All patients and visitors will be asked several questions related to COVID-19 symptoms prior to entering facilities. We ask that you please arrive at least 10 minutes early to your appointment.
  • Lowell School Satellite Clinic: Closed until further notice.

 

Public Works

The Public Works facilities in Missoula and Seeley Lake will be closed to the public until further notice. Customers can access an exterior drop box outside of the Missoula office for building permit submittals and issuances.

The Building Division will only perform exterior or non-occupied structure inspections at this time. Emergency interior inspections will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Apply for a construction-related permit online: www.missoulacounty.build

Sheriff’s Office

The Sheriff’s Office has discontinued all nonessential/non-emergent Sheriff’s Office business. These programs include:

  • Concealed weapons permits
  • Citizen Observer Program
  • Catering permits
  • Fingerprinting
  • All other office-related duties, determined on a case-by-case basis

The office reception desk will be staffed during regular business hours. Call 406-258-4810.

Weed District and Extension

The Weed District and Extension office is closed to the public until further notice. Residents can access information and services via email, phone and the website.

4-H: 406-258-4201
Family Consumer Science: 406-258-4206
Plant Clinic: 406-258-4213
General Weed District Questions: 406-258-4217
Weed District Grants: 406-258-4219
Re-vegetation Permits: 406-258-4218

Missoula health officials clarify COVID-19 testing procedures

Reduce coronavirus WHO

Missoula City-County Health Department and local hospitals have received several calls regarding testing for COVID-19.

“There is a lot of confusion among the public about testing for COVID-19, mostly around the expectation that anyone can get a test,” says Cindy Farr, incident commander for the county’s response team. “It’s not as simple as testing everyone in the community.”

One of the most significant points of confusion is how the test works. The current test is not designed to screen people for their risk of exposure to the virus. It can only diagnose someone with COVID-19 who is showing symptoms.

Another challenge with testing is the number of test kits available. While the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services received approval to start testing for COVID-19 early last week, they had access to only 200 tests for the whole state, meaning resources need to be used judiciously. For a test to be completed at the state, local health care providers work with DPHHS and take into account a person’s likelihood of exposure, their symptoms, the severity of those symptoms, and the exclusion of other respiratory illnesses. These criteria were set to use resources effectively and ensure that those with a higher likelihood of having COVID-19 are diagnosed quickly.

Soon, a private lab will be able to process diagnostic tests for Missoula. While this is welcome news, that doesn’t change the nature of the test, as it is still a diagnostic test and not used for screening. It also does not increase the supply of tests, and health care providers will still need to assess the likelihood of COVID-19 before testing. While more testing is a good thing, Montana does not want labs overwhelmed with tests from unlikely candidates, resulting in delays diagnosing those who may have the disease.

“Hopefully, more resources will become available, but we need to work effectively with the resources we currently have,” Farr says. “Right now, the best tool we have in our community is prevention.”

The health department recommends the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Disinfect surfaces frequently
  • If you do exhibit symptoms of fever, coughing or shortness of breath, call your medical provider first and stay home except when seeking medical treatment

The public can call 406-258-INFO with questions or concerns about COVID-19. Local information also is online at http://missoula.co/cvirus.