The evidence continues to mount that Montana is entering a crisis with the Covid-19 pandemic. Daily reports indicate hospitals at or even over capacity in terms of bed availability and staffing. The state is seeing ten or more Covid related deaths each day and 900+ new Covid cases each day. For a state that worked aggressively during the initial pandemic with great success, Montana is now a hotbed by national and even some international measures. We have become complacent in the practice of those measures that led to our earlier success in stemming the spread of Covid-19. It is unfortunate we have not remained vigilant with social distancing and mask wearing as these measures clearly make a difference. We have easily forgotten that one major goal of these efforts initially was to assure the healthcare system was not overwhelmed. That goal was accomplished in many parts of the country. Unfortunately, having forgotten that goal, we find ourselves on the verge of the sort of situation we sacrificed to avoid earlier.
Regardless of the politically related concerns that continue to embroil this pandemic, the medical problems caused by Covid-19 are real, and can be extremely serious. The resultant effects on the ability of the healthcare system to care for patients include a lack of supplies, overwhelmed bed availability, staffing shortages due to infection and exposure, and the mental toll on caregivers. These are very real stresses that Montana largely avoided early on. That appears to be changing.
Though the pandemic is likely to advance, we know what simple things need to be done to mitigate the negative effects that occur. We can also buy time to find better treatments and develop a safe and effective vaccine. It is past time to recommit to mask wearing, social distancing, and avoiding others when ill, and we need to follow quarantine directives as well as avoid large groups. Failure to do so could well lead us to the kind of overwhelming problems seen in Italy, Spain, New York, Texas, and many other places. I would like something better for Sanders County and Montana. I trust you feel the same way.
Gregory S. Hanson, MD
Clark Fork Valley Hospital