Cascade City-County Health Department

The Cascade City-County Health Department. 

GREAT FALLS - After a spike in COVID-19 cases across Cascade County, public health workers joined local agencies in a press briefing Friday, discussing efforts against the virus’ spread.

While the county’s not closing anytime soon, the City-County Health Department (CCHD) is looking at all other options as hospitals, schools and other groups strain from the recent rise in cases. 

With over 1,300 cases since March, staff at Benefis say they’re getting more patients than they can handle, asking anyone who’s asymptomatic to stay home. 

“If you become sick to the point that you can’t take care of yourself, that’s when you do access the emergency departments, the walk ins, the doctors office,” said Kevin Langkiet, the director for emergency services and critical care at Benefis. 

According to CCHD, this increase mainly comes from general community spread, indoor gatherings of all sizes and workplace outbreaks, following complaints of employees asked to work despite being sick. 

With this in mind, the department says it’s working on educating businesses against calling workers who feel unwell.

“If an employee is sick, they need to be out of the workplace. If they’re coming into the workplace while they’re sick, instead of having one sick individual, they’re going to spread that to the rest of their workforce and it’s going to be a lot more impactful to that place of business,” said CCHD Health Officer Trisha Gardner.  

While Great Falls Public Schools have seen a number of cases, they’re only a small percentage of the county’s total. GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore says he plans on keeping the district open as much as possible, with temporary closures as needed. 

“We will close a school or schools for a period of time until it is safe for our students and faculty to return,” said Moore.  

This Tuesday CCHD will discuss possibly implementing Coronavirus-related restrictions in a board meeting, which may include shortening work hours or lowering operating capacities below 75%. 

For the moment they’re taking public comments and suggestions by email, and they ask the public to follow social distancing guidelines for everyone’s wellbeing.

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