Be proactive to limit virus’ spread

March 15, 2020 1:00 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic had not yet made its way to Montana as of this writing, but experts suggest it’s only a matter of time before the virus is confirmed within the state.

In anticipation of its arrival, Gov. Steve Bullock last week declared a state of emergency to boost the state’s coordinated response when an outbreak does occur. The executive order frees up emergency funds and even allows use of the National Guard, if necessary.

At the same time last week, the Montana University System said it would transition from in-class instruction to online instruction beginning March 23 as students return from spring break. It’s entirely possible that K-12 schools across Montana will take similar measures, a move that undoubtedly would affect households and workplaces statewide.

Local events have been postponed or outright canceled as well, including the popular Creston Auction and Country Fair which draws thousands to Creston each April.

This might all seem like a massive overreaction to an outbreak that isn’t confirmed to be within the state yet, but overreacting is exactly the best way to limit the virus’ spread and overall impact.

Gov. Bullock made the right call by declaring a preemptive state of emergency, and if school officials make the difficult decision to call off classes, it will be the right choice as well.

Now is the time to err on the side of caution for the betterment of the whole population.

As the folks at the Creston Auction explained it, “This decision was made not out of fear but rather out of action. The safety and well-being of the Flathead Valley and beyond must be our priority.”

While disappointing for auction-goers, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

All health experts agree that the best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed. To limit exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people wash their hands frequently, remain at least 6 feet from others who are sick with fever and a cough (social distancing), and to stay home if they are sick.

The good news is that the vast majority of people who contract the new coronavirus recover within about two weeks and experience only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. The virus, however, can be much more severe for older adults and people with existing health conditions, and that’s the concern. While it may not impact you severely, the consequences could be serious for someone you make contact with, including a loved one.

Again, now is the time to err on the side of caution. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, stay home and call your health care provider right away. We will overcome this outbreak, but the best results will come with a pro-active, collaborative approach that’s embraced by all.

Anybody with questions or concerns about COVID-19 can visit the state’s informational website covid19.mt.gov or call the telephone hotline 1-888-333-0461.