Latest COVID-19 cases linked to service industry

by Whitefish Pilot
| July 22, 2020 2:17 PM

Many of the newest local cases of COVID-19 appear to be associated with those who work in the service industry such as at bars and restaurants, according to the Flathead City-County Health Department.

Flathead County has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. As of Wednesday morning, the county had 52 active cases of the virus and had recorded a total of 158 cases.

The county also has 10 active hospitalizations with eight of those being patients who are residents of another county.

In response to an increase of cases, health officials are urging business owners and community members to make responsible choices and to take all necessary precautions to keep businesses operating.

“If a positive case is identified in a facility, our public health nurses work with the individual to help determine all close contacts that person may have exposed during their infectious period,” Tamalee St. James Robinson, Health Officer of the Flathead City-County Health Department, said in a release. “All close contacts of the positive individual are required to self-quarantine for 14 days since last exposure. This can hit a business hard, especially if many of their staff are named as contacts and must quarantine.”

The Flathead Community Health Center was recently forced to suspend asymptomatic testing since results weren’t able to be returned in a timely manner. Asymptomatic testing means for people who have no symptoms and it’s designed for frontline workers to determine whether the virus is present in the community.

The health department continues to encourage community members to follow social distancing, masking, and hand hygiene protocols to help keep local businesses and their employees safe.

Masks are required to be worn in public spaces in all Montana counties with four or more active cases of COVID-19, which includes Flathead County, per a directive issued by Gov. Steve Bullock.

St. James Robinson said it is evident that the county is seeing community spread of the virus.

“We are asking everyone to take Governor Bullock’s directives seriously to protect the health and wellbeing of our community,” St. James Robinson said. “Wear a mask when in public, stay six feet apart from non-household members, and stay at home if you feel sick. We all must do our part to keep our businesses open during these unprecedented times.”

For more information, visit https://www.flatheadhealth.org/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/.