Two county classrooms quarantined

COVID-19 keeps spreading in Park County
Jason Bacaj – Enterprise Staff Writer
Friday, August 27, 2021

Two classrooms in Park County are in quarantine due to positive COVID-19 cases within the school, said Dr. Laurel Desnick, Park City-County Health Officer.

Park County has seen 50 new cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days, along with seven related hospitalizations, Desnick said.

She said in a video update that the numbers “also suggest that there are many more cases in the community that are undiagnosed.”

As a result of the sharp rise in cases, the Park City-County Health Department now strongly recommends using masks in all public indoor spaces.

Schools throughout the county have opened their doors for the new academic year this month and — though all are taking precautions to protect students and staff against COVID-19 — none are requiring the use of masks.

Livingston School District, the county’s largest, currently requires all adults to wear masks when within 6 feet of another person. Mask wearing is optional for students. District Superintendent Lynne Scalia said that roughly 10% to 20% of students are voluntarily wearing masks through the beginning of the school year.

The school district is keeping its COVID-19 dashboard operational and updated, Scalia said. The dashboard shows that there is only one positive case in the district: a staff member at East Side School.

Scalia said the district will send students home with a letter asking parents and students to continue to work with the schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The letter emphasizes that the use of masks can help keep students on-site in schools because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the local health department quarantine protocols currently state that when an entire classroom or school is masked, close contacts to a positive case do not have to quarantine.

When mask use is inconsistent, both the CDC and local health department require that all individuals in the classroom with a positive case must quarantine for seven days and then produce a negative test, or wait a full 14 days, before returning to school.

Desnick noted that hospitals in Bozeman and Billings are seeing an influx of COVID-19 patients and asked local residents to wear masks in an attempt to bring the volume of cases down.

“They’re (Bozeman and Billings hospitals) all close to capacity, particularly with intensive care beds,” Desnick said.

Also due to the high volume of illness, the health department has reopened the drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Park County Fairgrounds. Tests are available without an appointment on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Vaccines are also available at the health department’s downtown location at 105 W. Lewis St. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, also from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Vaccines are available in the Shields Valley on Monday evenings and in Gardiner on Wednesday afternoons.

Available vaccines include the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine, as well as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, Desnick said. The Pfizer vaccine is also available at Livingston HealthCare and Osco Pharmacy in the Albertsons grocery store on West Park Street.

As of Friday morning, the state of Montana has 4,628 active cases of COVID-19 and 228 active hospitalizations, according to state data. A total of 1,783 Montana residents have died from the virus so far. Twenty-three have died in Park County.