County has eight active COVID-19 cases

By 
Hunter Herbaugh
Sunday, June 28, 2020
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The Dawson County Board of Health met on Friday, June 26 where they were updated on the current situation regarding active cases of Covid-19 in Dawson County.

Dawson County Health Department Director Timber Dempewolf informed the board testing has revealed eight cases over the course of a week. All cases are currently active.

Over the past two weeks, the number of cases across Montana has risen by 256, bringing the total to 829. Of those cases, 118 are active. There has been 22 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the state.

Cases have also significantly risen across the region in recent weeks. North Dakota reported 421 new cases, South Dakota reported an increase of 815 new cases, Wyoming has had 302 cases and Idaho has had 1,385 new cases.

“Eastern Montana has really seen an uptick in cases in the last two weeks,” Dempewolf said. “We continue to have between 20 and 30 cases each day spread out throughout Montana.”

With the number of cases on the rise, Dempewolf explained how the department’s contact tracing methods worked. She explained that once a case is confirmed, the infected person is interviewed to identify any close contacts the person may have had. Close contacts are anyone that has been within six feet of the infected person for 15 minutes or longer. However, she added that there may be certain circumstances where the 15 minute time limit may not apply. For example, two individuals in physical contact with each other would be considered close contacts, even if they were not close to each other for 15 minutes.

Once the close contacts are identified and contacted, those people, as well as the infected individual, are isolated for about 14 days. Dempewolf noted that the department is currently having a hard time getting people to understand how important it is to isolate themselves if they have possibly been in contact with an infected person.

“We have been struggling a little bit trying to get people to understand the importance of isolation when they are named a close contact and their test comes back negative,” Dempewolf said. “Whether or not their test comes back negative, that person does have to remain in isolation for 14 days.”

She added that, depending on several factors, the person’s isolation could be shorter or longer.

Dempewolf also revisited the topic of community surveillance testing, which the board has spoken about previously. During their previous conversation, the board was thinking that the end of July would be a good time for it, however in her conversations with state health officials, Dempewolf has suggested moving the date up to sometime during the week of July 6. She noted that she had tried to organize the testing for a week earlier but wasn’t sure she would have been able to get the supplies in time.

The testing will be done in a drive-through fashion and will be open to anyone in the community. Afterwards, Glendive Medical Center will be able to test individuals by appointment.

The board also moved to approve the plans for a variety of activities and events. This included the annual Bridge Day celebrations, the Resource Recovery Fair that the Dawson County Economic Development Council will be hosting at Dawson Community College, the Eastern Montana Bible Camp and the Scouts’ Box Car Derby.

This year’s Miss Montana competition was also approved. The contestants will be arriving the week of July 19 and the competition is set for July 23 through July 26. Both the main competition and the Miss Montana’s Outstanding Teen competition will go on, according to Jan Holden, one of the event organizers. The organizers would also still like to do the princess competition but aren’t sure they will be able to. They will continue working with the Health Department to resolve the situation.

Jamie Crisafulli, who spoke on behalf of the Hagen family, received approval for a funeral service for Justice Hagen at the Oakland Athletic Complex to be held next week.

She explained that they would follow much of the same idea as the recent DCHS graduation, although on a larger scale. Family groups would be kept six feet apart entering the facility and ushers would be used to control the flow of traffic. Chairs may also be placed on the field for the family of the deceased to sit on if need be.

An event that concerned the board, however, was the Richey Rodeo. No plan to ensure that public health guidelines are being followed has been shown to the board by event organizers and no representatives of the rodeo were present to talk about their plans. With no word of how or even if public health guidelines are planned to be enforced, the board is worried that the rodeo organizers aren’t taking public health into consideration.

“Do they want their event approved or not?” Glendive mayor Jerry Jimison asked the board.

Despite the lack of a plan present, the board granted a tentative approval for the event, with the restriction that the event organizers have to communicate with the board to ensure that public health guidance is in place.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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