MONTANA STATE LIBRARY MAP

Montana COVID FAQ Facts, resources & recommendations

New COVID cases are dropping nationwide, but in Montana they're holding steady. We rounded up expert answers to your latest COVID questions

The following recommendations are based on interviews with medical professionals in Montana. This article should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decisions.

IS IT CALLED THE CORONAVIRUS, OR COVID-19, OR WHAT?

Coronaviruses are a particular family of viruses, and according to the National Institutes of Health, there are hundreds of them that circulate in animals including bats, pigs and camels. The specific coronavirus at the root of the current pandemic is known as SARS-CoV-2. SARS stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome.” When you hear it referred to as a “novel” coronavirus, that’s another way of saying it’s new. COVID-19 is the name given to the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, which typically presents as a respiratory infection.

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH COVID-19 IN MONTANA RIGHT NOW?

COVID-19 cases in the state began climbing again in August. The number of new cases has been fluctuating daily, with spikes as high as 1,300 or 1,400, but the seven-day average is hovering around 900. That’s in fairly stark contrast to the national trend. According to the New York Times, average daily cases dropped 19% nationally in the first two weeks of October. As of Oct. 11, the paper listed Montana as having the second-highest average daily cases per 100,000 people in the nation, as well as the second-highest daily average of hospitalizations per 100,000 people. You can check MTFP’s coronavirus report, updated Monday-Friday, for the latest Montana-specific information.

WHAT CAN I DO TO REDUCE MY RISK OF GETTING COVID-19?

Every medical expert Montana Free Press spoke with said the most important thing you can do is get vaccinated. Beyond that, there are lots of steps you can take to mitigate your risk of contracting the virus. Those include washing your hands regularly, maintaining six feet of social distance from people you don’t live with, and avoiding crowded indoor spaces and poorly ventilated areas. The Centers for Disease Control also says that if you have to cough or sneeze, you should cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow and immediately wash your hands afterwards.

The most notable precaution, and the one we’ve all become familiar with over the past year and a half, is wearing a face mask. MTFP wrote about the science behind masking in September, but health care providers continue to stress that face coverings are a safe and easy method of protecting yourself and those around you from COVID-19.

“We’re just going to keep putting it out there,” Montana Nurses Association Executive Director Vicky Byrd said. “Wear a mask, whether you’re vaccinated or not.”

IS THERE A PARTICULAR TYPE OF MASK I SHOULD USE?

Among its many COVID-19 related resources, the CDC has a webpage solely dedicated to the various kinds of masks people might use during the pandemic. Those range from disposable surgical masks — the blue ones you occasionally see lying in garbage cans or on sidewalks — to the heavier-duty N95 masks, which are technically called respirators, not masks. According to numerous sources including Johns Hopkins University, masks should be made with at least two layers of fabric and cover the nose, mouth and chin without any large gaps. The CDC recommends that if you’re going to use a neck gaiter as a facial covering, you should fold it over into two layers.

Health care providers are continuing to study different types of masks to learn more about their varying levels of effectiveness. For now, Byrd’s advice is “something is better than nothing.”

HOW CAN I KEEP MY CHILD SAFE?

The same methods that work for adults work for children, too. In fact, some public school districts have made masking a requirement. Not everyone is OK with that, but it does conform with the CDC’s current recommendations for K-12 schools.

WHEN CAN I GET TESTED FOR COVID-19?

Because Montana is dealing with a high volume of COVID-19 cases right now, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is prioritizing COVID tests at the state lab. That means if you are symptomatic or hospitalized, or are involved in a large-scale outbreak of the virus, your test will be top priority. According to information obtained from DPHHS via email, asymptomatic patients, individuals who are participating in surveillance testing, people who are undergoing elective surgery and people who are planning to travel are next on the priority list. DPHHS has also helped enable long-term care and assisted living facilities to ship tests directly to state-contracted labs for processing, and is working to beef up rapid on-site testing for schools as well.

“DPHHS is providing funding to K-12 school districts and private schools to support staffing, equipment and supplies to conduct COVID-19 screening/testing of school staff and students,” DPHHS Communications Director Jon Ebelt wrote via email. “DPHHS is also providing schools directly with COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits. The goal of this is to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among students and school staff to help keep schools safe and open.”

More Information

Lone Peak Lookout

Cori Koenig, editor: editor@lonepeaklookout.com
Susanne Hill, billing: shill@lonepeaklookout.com
Ad orders, inserts, classifieds: connect@lonepeaklookout.com
406-579-6877
Comment Here