Montana reduces quarantine times for close contacts

Sam Klomhaus - Enterprise Staff Writer
Friday, December 4, 2020

The state of Montana has released new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that shorten the length of quarantines for close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Now, according to an information sheet from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, close contacts who test negative for COVID-19 on day 5 or later and have not developed COVID-19 symptoms can end their quarantines after seven days, and close contacts without tests can end their quarantines after 10 days if they do not develop COVID-19 symptoms.

The 14-day quarantine for close contacts, which until now has been the standard in Park County, is still the safest option, the sheet said, and individuals who get out of quarantine early should continue to selfmonitor for COVID-19 symptoms through the 14-day period after being exposed to the virus.

If they develop symptoms, according to the state, individuals should immediately self-isolate and contact the Health Department.

The information sheet states: “CDC continues to recommend a quarantine period of 14 days, but this guidance provides options to shorten the length of quarantine for contacts of COVID-19 cases.”

Park County Public Health Nurse Anna Buckley said Park County will adopt the state’s new quarantine guidelines, which were issued by the Centers for Disease Control Wednesday.

“We think it’s great guidance and we’re going to follow it,” Buckley said.

Buckley said people still need to follow basic COVID-19 precautions, such as hand washing, wearing face coverings and social distancing, but the new guidelines should be a boost for the local economy.

“We are very excited about it,” Buckley said. “People are going to get back to work sooner.”

The recommendation for 10 day isolation for COVID-19 positive cases, or 20 days for severely ill individuals, remains unchanged, according to the information sheet.


LHC prepares for surge

Livingston HealthCare is taking steps to mitigate a possible postThanksgiving surge in COVID-19 cases in Park County.

According to LHC spokeswoman Whitney Moore, hospital staff have been working since March to develop and refine a plan for surges in COVID-19 that could fill up the hospital. That plan includes additional capacity at the hospital, Moore said, primarily in its surgical areas.

LHC has already been filled to capacity at least once earlier this fall, according to a hospital press release.

Moore said the surge plan allows for nine to 13 beds on top of the 25 Livingston HealthCare already has.

If LHC were to fill to capacity, Moore said, there are programs in Montana that allow it to be in touch with other hospitals around the state to see if they have beds LHC can send patients to.

Moore said the state of Montana has established a hotline to help medical facilities with patient placement.

Other ways the hospital is working to prepare for a surge include cross-training staff to fill potential gaps, making sure the hospital has adequate supplies, and looking at staffing and making sure front line staff are taken care of in their work and well-being, Moore said.

As of Thursday, the state’s COVID-19 hospital occupancy report listed Livingston HealthCare as having two COVID-19 patients and 10 beds available.


Friday’s numbers

The state of Montana’s COVID-19 case map added 27 cases in Park County Friday, bringing the county’s total to 701 total confirmed cases, 161 of which are active.

The Livingston School District reported Friday there were 81 students and staff members either isolated or quarantining because of COVID-19, including three COVID-positive staff, two COVID-positive students and 67 students quarantining because of close contacts with positive cases or COVID-19-like symptoms.

In Montana, there have been 66,436 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 16,492 of which are active.

There have been 727 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Montana, including three Park County residents.