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County schools close, events canceled

Organizations take action to slow virus spread


March 19, 2020

While Governor Steve Bullock ordered last Sunday that Montana schools be closed for two weeks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, other Sanders County businesses are feeling the effects as well.

County officials met Monday to discuss guidelines and potential impacts to the county businesses and residents. The county created a Facebook page, "Sanders County COVID-19," to update residents on current restrictions due to the coronavirus. A message line has also been set up at 827-3951 and a recording will provide the latest information from the county.

In Thompson Falls, several businesses made changes after the governor's recommendations for social distancing. The Sunflower Gallery decided to close for two weeks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, and the Elks Lodge chose to cancel events for the remainder of the month. Big Eddy's also closed Monday until further notice.

Gov. Bullock, speaking via conference call on Monday, said that the economic impact will be significant to Montanans. "It's a challenging time in that respect," the governor said, "but I think we have to do everything we can to flatten the curve."

McGowan Grocery in Plains changed the store schedule this week, with new hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. In a letter to customers, the company said they also may be imposing purchase restrictions on some products that are in high demand.

While Harvest Foods in Thompson Falls is not reducing store hours, items such as household disinfectants and paper products including toilet paper and paper towels have been limited by the parent company, Moody's Market. A sign on the shelves at Harvest Foods said toilet paper purchases will be limited to two packages per customer per day.

Both Thompson Falls and Plains public libraries have decided to close voluntarily. Lynne Kersten with the Thompson Falls Library said that they will waive overdue fees during this time.

Thompson Falls School District extended their spring break for a week with the governor's order, with plans to go back to school on March 30.

At Trout Creek School, Principal Debbie Phillips said homework and remote learning was scheduled to start on Wednesday, and Grab and Go meals are available at the school daily. Breakfasts and lunches can be picked up in the driveway of the school at 9 a.m. For students without Internet access at home, paper and pencil work will be provided, Phillips said. The school is scheduled to be on spring break March 23-27.

Hot Springs Schools are providing grab and go breakfasts and lunches at the elementary school 11-11:30 a.m. daily. Students on bus routes can have meals delivered.

Plains School on their website announced that educational services would be provided online or by mail. Beginning Thursday, the school began providing grab and go meals.

In Noxon, grab and go meals were offered to any child in Trout Creek, Heron or Noxon this week. Superintendent Jonathan Martin said 93 meals were served on Tuesday. He said if the mandated school closure extends beyond March 27, teachers will begin providing digital learning options for their students.

Clark Fork Valley Hospital (CFVH) announced Monday that no visitation is being allowed at the long-term care center, but they are establishing video capability for friends and family members to communicate with their loved ones. A single visitor at any one time will be allowed in the hospital, CEO Dr. Greg Hanson said in a statement Monday, and that person must be healthy and at least 17 years old. Visitors to the hospital or any of its clinics will need to complete a questionnaire that will be used "to determine how we can best serve you and protect others if need be," Hanson wrote. "The needs of handling this pandemic are constantly changing. We will continue to monitor state and federal recommendations and requirements and respond appropriately. Most importantly we remain dedicated to serving the health of our friends, families, and neighbors."

Denise Moreth, manager of Quinn's resort in Paradise, said they have canceled all open events and pool access will be limited to lodging guests only until further notice. "We are following all CDC recommendations and doing everything we can do to keep the doors open and reduce the spread of the virus," Moreth said, adding that Quinn's has provided additional sanitation instruction and training to their team.

The governor on Monday said that throughout the week Montanans may see some restaurants and bars shutting down or limiting services to take-out only, but the state had no plans of mandating those restrictions. The governor did say he is "strongly discouraging any social gathering of more than 50 people."


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