Bullock asks people to curb Thanksgiving crowds

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | November 18, 2020 1:00 AM

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in Flathead County and across Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock and state medical officials are urging folks to curb their holiday plans this Thanksgiving by gathering with just immediate household and family members.

They also urged folks to avoid travel, if possible.

“This is not the time to have large family gatherings,” Dr. Greg Holzman, the state’s chief medical officer, said during a conference call with reporters Thursday.

Bullock and Holzman, gave the same advice they’ve given over and over again: Wear a mask, keep six feet apart, wash your hands regularly and avoid large crowds.

But enough people statewide have all but ignored that and cases continue to ramp up.

Last week Montana added 7,300 new cases — a 29% increase over the week before.

To date, about one in 24 Montanans have tested positive for coronavirus, 522 have died and about 500 are currently hospitalized. One hundred died since Nov. 12.

Holzman said four hospitals in the state are at capacity and can’t take more patients, though when pressed, he didn’t name the hospitals.

Flathead County as of Monday has more than 1,700 active cases.

Kalispell Regional Hospital had 26 hospitalized as of last Thursday.

On the testing front, the state is encouraged that it should get 230,000 rapid response tests by year’s end from the federal government.

KRH also announced it was the first hospital in the state to offer advanced testing.

Working with FYR Diagnostics of Missoula, the hospital purchased new state-of-the-art testing equipment. The new equipment helps expedite the testing process since it can test large batches of around 100 specimens at a time.In the first 14 days after the new platform became fully operational, KRH performed more than 3,000 COVID-19 tests in the in-house lab, more than the total tests performed from March through August. Thus far, the highest number of tests KRH performed in one day reached nearly 800.

The hospital now has drive-thru testing. Go to https://www.krh.org/krhc/patients-and-visitors/covid-19-preparedness-and-updates/covid-testing for more information.All told, the state has done about 134,000 tests in the past 30 days.

Bullock also said he was concerned about the economy. He noted that of the $1.25 billion the state received under the federal CARES Act for coronavirus relief, about $1.23 billion has been committed and $900 million is already “out the door.”

The state has to spend the funds by the end of the year, under the provisions of the Act, which was used to support businesses and give additional unemployment benefits above and beyond what traditional unemployment provided.

Bullock said he “remained hopeful that Congress will get its act together,” and pass another relief bill by year’s end.

In school coronavirus news, the junior high was expected to reopen on Thursday to in-person classes. It was closed last week as 10 staffers either got the virus or had to be quarantined due to close contacts.