GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Tuesday afternoon the Cascade City-County Health Board held a special meeting to discuss possible extra measures to reduce community spread in response to an additional COVID19 related death and a recent spike in positive cases.
They shared alarming numbers at a virtual meeting that was open to the public.
"To date, we have 738 active cases, 1,508 total cases, and an additional death was added today. We stand at 13 lives lost due to the Coronavirus Pandemic," said Tricia Gardner, Public Health Officer.
The board also revealed the dwindling hospital capacity in our area. Benefis is at 113% capacity. Their ICU is full with 21 patients, 19 of those are infected with COVID19.
"Our rate per 100,000 people in Cascade County is about 40. Nationally they're looking around 16 per 100,000. We are well over that and that is very concerning to me," said Gardner.
According to the Public Health Officer, Cascade County had a 21.3% positivity rate during the week ending 10/14/2020.
Many people asked about sick residents from other areas flooding our hospitals. Officials assured that is not the case, but everyone must do their part to wash their hands, wear a mask, and continue social distancing so healthcare professionals can keep up.
Board members and Dr. Raymond Geyer of the Great Falls Clinic Hospital discussed all possible additional measures that could be advised and enforced to drive these numbers down. They hope these options will not have to be mandated with any potential penalty and wish people would follow their orders out of the kindness of their hearts to help the greater good of the community.
Further options to stop the spread included capacity reduction at small businesses and stronger enforcement of Governor Bullock's mask mandate.
Many people asked about further curfews for bars, restaurants, and stores. Healthcare professionals decided reduced capacity was more of a central issue. Bars, restaurants, and similar establishments must be closed by 12:30 a.m. in compliance with Governor Bullock's directive.
Others were concerned about the Cascade City County Health Department investigating non-compliance complaints. Gardner says out of 200 businesses that were called, only 3 Order of Correction letters were sent out, and only a few chose to shut their doors briefly. The C.C.H.D. did not order those businesses to close.
The meeting lasted just under an hour and a half and people were able to voice their opinions on how the board is responding to the global pandemic. So many people wanted to weigh in that items, questions, and concerns were tabled for another meeting. So far there's no set date on when that may happen, but the public will have at least two days notice.
So far the board has not officially voted to alter any current emergency health crisis response measures in Cascade County. The area remains in Phase 2 of Governor Bullock's re-opening plan.