CFVH opens clinic, county limits access
Offices work to serve people by phone, online
March 26, 2020
Sanders County is changing the way they do business. As of Wednesday, offices in the courthouse, as well as the sheriff's office, were encouraging customers to do business by phone or online. To receive service in the office, appointments will be made. The doors to both locations will be locked and visitors will be screened at the door prior to entry, commissioners announced this week. One customer will be allowed at a time at offices.
"We are taking these measures to protect the public and our staff while continuing to serve the community," commissioners noted on signs posted at the courthouse.
The county commissioners, Office of Emergency Management, Environmental Health and Public Health offices are working together to implement non-pharmaceutical interventions, said Karen Morey with Sanders County Public Health. To reduce transmissions of COVID-19, precautionary and protective behaviors include: social distancing, self-isolation for 14 days if someone has traveled to a state or country of high risk, hand washing and disinfecting. Morey said that local schools, clinics and Clark Fork Valley Hospital are important stakeholders in the preventive measures and efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
Dr. Greg Hanson, CEO at CFVH, said that as of Monday evening, 14 individuals had been tested for coronavirus at CFVH, and all tests came back negative.
"We have locked down our main hospital campus and limited traffic to 3 entrances including our clinic, ED and main Hospital entrance in an effort to screen patients and visitors as they arrive," Hanson said. "Our employees are also being screened for symptoms on a daily basis. In certain areas, temperatures are even being taken to ensure the safety of our patients and residents we care for."
Hanson explained that CFVH has canceled elective surgeries and rescheduled preventive office visits. The hospital's providers have also evaluated their schedules and rescheduled individuals who they believe it is appropriate to do so.
With the restrictions in place, Hanson said that they have seen fewer patients in almost every area of the hospital and clinics. "We have seen our supply chains unable to meet the rising requests across the country in a consistent matter," Hanson noted, but added that the hospital has had the supplies they have needed to meet demand so far.
CFVH set up a COVID-19 Nurse Hotline at 826-4889. "We want the line to be the first place people will seek guidance regarding the need for further care. Using this line and thereby avoiding unnecessary trips to the clinics or ER will help us reserve supplies, limit staff and community exposure, as well as limit your individual exposure risk," Hanson said, adding that staff fielded 18 calls during the first day of operation on Monday.
While as of Tuesday afternoon there were no cases of COVID-19 in Sanders County, Morey noted that there has been a case in almost all the surrounding counties.
"Be a positive influence and set a good example," said Sanders County Sanitarian Shawn Sorenson. "Personal freedoms are meaningless if you take away somebody else's and get them sick."
Sorenson sent a notice to business owners last Friday after Governor Bullock ordered restrictions on businesses including food and beverage establishments. Safely providing food to the public is a critical part of this global public health situation. We urge you to be cautious as you remain open and serve the public. ... By safely serving food to the public you are setting a positive example for the public to follow. Your example can and will make a difference," the notice stated. Many local restaurants have remained open with delivery or carry-out service only.
County Clerk and Recorder/Treasurer Nichol Scribner said the state is discussing the upcoming elections, including school board in May and the primary election in June. This week, the county election office is sending letters to registered voters who have not requested to vote by absentee ballot. Letters can be completed to request an absentee ballot be mailed for the upcoming election, or voters can choose to receive absentee ballots for future elections.
"Now that the COVID-19 is listed as a pandemic and with this being a legitimate health concern the CDC is recommending to election administrators to encourage people vote by a method other than a polling place; for Montana that is by an absentee ballot," Scribner said. "If you did not receive the letter in regard to voting by absentee ballot, you may already be set to receive a ballot by mail or you may not be registered to vote." Voters can check their status online at https://app.mt.gov/voterinfo/ or call the Sanders County Election Office at (406) 827-6949 or (406) 827-6929.
"My duty as your election administrator is to provide every eligible person the ability to become a registered voter and to ensure the voter has all options available to vote an election," Scribner added. "I am also responsible for the wellbeing of Sanders County's dedicated election judges and I do not want to put them in jeopardy."
Scribner noted that finding elections judges in Montana is becoming difficult. "Sanders County has very dedicated election judges and it makes their jobs more efficient if all stations of a polling site are covered by a judge. It is mandatory to attend an election judge training every two years," she said. More information on becoming an election judge is available from the county election office.
CFVH initiated an incident command team earlier this month. That team consists of leadership, medical staff and other key individuals at the hospital. "This has helped us to stay organized and not let anything fall through the cracks," Hanson said.