Judith Basin residents preparing for COVID-19 and preventative measures

Thursday, March 19, 2020
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During the last several days, precautions regarding a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) have increased dramatically. The incidents of infection in the United States show an exponential curve, according to a Washington Post article that models disease transmission (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/).

To flatten this curve, several measures at the local, state, national and international levels are underway, including social distancing. For example, Hobson cancelled their Town Council meeting. The Stanford School Board encouraged people to attend the March 17 meeting online through a provider called Zoom. The Judith Basin County Free Library is closed but offering curbside service by calling 566-2277 ext. 123.

People stocked up at the stores in steady streams, and preparations quickly shaped up for food deliveries. See below for more.

Recent events

March 11, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. Montana Governor Steve Bullock created a multi-agency task force to prepare Montana to respond to a local COVID-19 outbreak. On the evening of Sunday March 15, it was announced that schools across Montana would close for at least two weeks. On March 16, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin announced many individuals and corporations can defer tax payments due to the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 17, Senators Tester and Daines both announced that $4.5 million will be awarded to Montana from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help support the coronavirus response and protect public health.

As of 9:23 p.m. on March 18 ( the most recent information available at the state’s website at the time of this article), 12 individuals in Montana had tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 773 persons had been tested at that time, with 761 results coming back negative, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. Montana case numbers and test results can be found at the following website: https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt.

According to KRTV News, counties in Montana with known cases of coronavirus/positive tests included Missoula (4 cases), Gallatin (3 cases), Yellowstone (2 cases), Butte-Silver Bow (1 case) and Broadwater (1 case).

Responding to the seriousness of this contagious virus, many events in Judith Basin have been either postponed or cancelled (see end of article). Still, residents are helping one another through. A level of uneasiness may be present, but local residents of Judith Basin by and large are focusing on solutions rather than the problems.

Judith Basin schools and daycares

All schools in Judith Basin, and across the State of Montana, are closed for at least two weeks. Daycares have been allowed to stay open, as well as able to accommodate additional children without compromising their licenses, said Diana Schmitt of Kiddie Korner in Stanford. Little Rascals in Hobson is also open at this time. School studies across Judith Basin continue but are online.

In Hobson, students need to keep an eye on their email, existing Google Classrooms and teacher pages of the school’s website for their coursework information.

“This is a shutdown of school buildings for the safety of students and staff; it is not a shutdown of their education,” the Hobson School posted on its Facebook page.

In Stanford, the teaching staff will continue to provide educational services to their students.

“There will be a great deal of planning and communicating happening the next few days as we transition into a remote learning facility,” Superintendent Brad Moore wrote in an email to parents and students. “You can expect to hear from your child(ren) teacher(s) very soon. We will also continue with our food service program and provide breakfast and lunch to go for our students.”

In order to provide students with access to learning materials at the school, grades were divided for picking up items, with grades 7 – 12 coming in Monday and grades K – 6 coming in on Tuesday.

Stanford Guidance Counselor Deborah Hayes provided information on communicating with children

“Children are quite perceptive, so it is important to talk to them about their fears and give them the best information we have, at an age-appropriate level,” Hayes wrote parents and related parties in an email. “I am here and available online for all parents, partners and children. And parents can reach me on my cell phone if they have questions or concerns (350-0928). Please assure all parents that Mr. Moore and the staff at Stanford School are doing all that we can to be safe, prepared and meet the educational needs of the children in our school.”

Geyser superintendent Shawn Harkins said he and the school’s staff started working on putting online instruction together on Monday, with it ready to go by Wednesday.

Senior Centers

Meals at the Judith River Senior Center in Hobson are being made available for pickup, according to Hobson Correspondent Irene Welch.

The Senior Center in Stanford is working on a delivery system, Leah Kay Roane said Tuesday, and provided seniors with more details at their lunch the same day.

D’s to deliver

To help out, D’s supermarket in Stanford is offering delivery of goods to those sick, quarantined or staying at home for safety. Those who fit this ticket can simply call the store at 566-2351 for assistance.

“D’s Supermarket would like to make sure everyone has access to the necessities,” said the crew at D’s.

Delivery times are limited to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and those in need are asked to call at least an hour ahead, or possibly the night before, and the crew will work to get the order together.

D’s plans to keep regular hours (7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday).

Cancelled or postponed events

The Wildwest Hoopfest, which had been scheduled for March 29, will still be held, said the event’s organizer, Kim Holzer, but the new date has not been set at this time.

“We will still have it but not March 29. We are working on pinning down an alternate date,” said Holzer, adding that 40 teams are already confirmed.

Raynesford’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner has been postponed, according to Lois Hill with the Raynesford Community Center. This also had to do with the blizzard last weekend.

The Geyser Bingo Fiesta was cancelled.

The Hobson Extravaganza was scheduled for March 28, but will be postponed. The new date has not yet been set by the committee.

Smaller gatherings were also cancelled, but many restaurants remain open and several are offering take out as well.

State website

“Stay informed through reputable sources of information during this rapidly changing public health situation,” Governor Bullock said in a press release. To find resources and daily updates related to the virus, visit the Montana Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 website (https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt).

Preventative measures

The best way to prevent infection from COVID-19 and any respiratory virus is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The same preventative measures that are recommended during cold and flu season will also help to protect against coronavirus:

• Wash your hands thoroughly and often for at least 20 seconds using soap and water

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

• Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue (or your elbow)

• Stay home if you are sick

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces