Montana Public Radio

Gallatin County Says Contact Tracing Won’t Rein In COVID-19 Alone

Oct 5, 2020
Originally published on October 5, 2020 12:59 pm

Montana’s health department reported 360 new COVID-19 cases Friday. Gallatin County health officials say it feels like we’re hanging onto the ride right now rather than working together to eliminate the illness.

Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley Friday said the county’s seven day rolling average of new daily cases was 53 percent higher than the week before.

He said the health department can’t slow the spread of the illness on its own.

“When you’re getting 65, 68 cases a day in a community this size, that’s really indicating that we have a substantial number of cases that we’re probably not detecting," Kelley said. "We’re still doing it; we’re still working hard.”

Kelley said Gallatin County is continuously on-boarding people to help with contact tracing. Currently the health department has 11 full time contact tracers and other nurses to help make calls seven days a week.

But with nearly 200 active cases, he said, “We’re not going to stop it through contact tracing when it gets to be this size.”

State health officials and hospital administrators made a plea Wednesday for help flattening the curve ahead of the flu season, when hospital beds typically fill up and resources are stretched thin.

"Frankly, we need help from elected leaders; we need help from business leaders; we need help from faith leaders. We need help across the board from people to step forward, be vocal and say, 'It’s time that we really take this seriously; we really wear those masks, do social distancing,'" Kelley said.

"If you’re planning an event, you’re going to have a large number of people, we need people to really rethink that and really think carefully about how they’re going to do that," he added.

Kelley said he understands that going into quarantine or isolation can be difficult and disruptive to peoples’ lives, especially when their symptoms are mild. But he said if you’re a contact, part of your civic duty is to stay home.

Kelley added the health department has resources in communities across Gallatin County to deliver food and medicine, and help with unemployment assistance.

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