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Covid-19 Update - 5/15/20

Friday, May 15, 2020

Montana is well into phase 1 of its “Reopening the Big Sky” plan. Many businesses are open including restaurants as well as churches. We are told to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people if we cannot maintain appropriate physical distancing and to minimize non-essential travel. Hospitals are offering services that they had reduced or temporarily shut down. Our states efforts to dampen the effect of Covid-19 have proven successful to the point that at the time I write this we have a very low number of 15 active cases in Montana.

Consistent with the state reopening plan, Clark Fork Valley Hospital has been performing outpatient elective procedures for two weeks and we will now begin scheduling inpatient elective surgeries including joint replacements. It will take a while to catch up on the workload that has accumulated, particularly given our need to continue to schedule at less than full capacity for both staff and patient safety. We made the decision anticipating increased Covid-19 activity will occur as the reopening progresses. Particularly worrisome is the potential for travel into the state as summer approaches. We have also shortened hours for the Respiratory Illness Clinic as we have seen decreasing demand for the service. We softened visiting restrictions such that travel outside Sanders County (but still in Montana) is no longer limiting, though visitors will still need to complete a questionnaire, and there are limits on the number of visitors. There is still a federally imposed closure to visitation in Long Term Care.

This last week our Long Term Care facility underwent a state mandated survey to assure our infection control program is well developed and carried out. We “passed with flying colors” as they say. This was good news as protection of that particularly vulnerable group has been a major focus of our efforts. Kudos to the staff who have worked hard to assure the Covid-19 does not enter the facility.

Testing is becoming more readily available but is still not at the levels needed to give us a tool to combat a repeat spike of cases. In addition, in many circumstances some of the tests have significant false results leaving physicians needing to use their experience to interpret the individual situation. This is common in medicine, and given that, we are fortunate to have skilled clinical providers in Sanders County to assist you.

I continue to marvel that we have been fortunate to have no cases in Sanders County. We should be thankful, but we must also remain vigilant. Continue to practice the social distancing we have become familiar with, wash hands, cough into the elbow, keep our hands away from our faces, use masks where appropriate, and stay home if we are ill. At least for the near future, these practices will remain our most effective means of limiting the medical impact of this disease.

Lastly, thank you for the support that you have shown your local hospital during this time. We have received cards, phone calls, and gifts letting our staff know you appreciate them. Those things mean a lot, particularly at times like this.

Gregory S. Hanson, MD

CFVH President/CEO

Family Medicine Network

Healthcare across Sanders County

Thompson Falls


Hot Springs