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Testing infrastructure challenged, people with COVID-19 symptoms asked to stay home


For immediate release:

November 18, 2020
Butte - Testing challenges at Southwest Montana Community Health Center are prompting health officials in the community to ask people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home rather than seek testing.

Southwest Montana Community Health Center Medical Director Serena Brewer, M.D., said those with mild symptoms should assume they are positive and stay home, and those around someone with symptoms should also quarantine. Those with mild symptoms are asked to call the CHC at 723-4075 to work through whether the mild symptoms can be managed at home.

The Community Health Center reported Tuesday that 20 staff members have been confirmed positive with COVID-19 in the past week. Over the last week, the CHC conducted 1,100 COVID tests, with 172 of those tests turning up positive.

“We are doing the best we can with decreased staffing, but we certainly can't meet the demand we are seeing," Serena Brewer, M.D., Southwest Montana Community Health Center’s medical director, said Wednesday.

“At this point it is so prevalent in the community, and we are just swamped,” Brewer said. The message to the community, she said, is “stay home.” Brewer emphasized that this message is also meant for those who have symptoms – to stay home from work.

Symptomatic employees and those around them are asked to work with their employers on making arrangements.

“We are asking employers in the community to understand,” Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer Karen Sullivan said. “The medical community at this point will be unable to provide the employer with a note certifying the employee’s absence. We are quite simply asking employees and employers to act in good faith and work together on this issue.”

Mild symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills; cough; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; a new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; and diarrhea.

Those with more severe symptoms – difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face – are asked to seek immediate medical care by calling 911 or going to the emergency room.

“The paradigm has shifted in our community,” Sullivan said. “We are to the point that even if you’re experiencing mild symptoms of COVID, stay home.”

Meanwhile, the Health Department announced the county’s 19th and 20th fatalities related to COVID-19. The fatalities were residents at Butte’s Copper Ridge Health and Rehab long-term care facility, 3251 Nettie.

“Our heartfelt sympathies and thoughts are with the residents’ families, and with the residents and staff of Copper Ridge,” Sullivan said.

Also, the Health Department announced Tuesday evening 111 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the previous 26 hours.

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