September 24, 2020
By Powder River County Health Nurse Darlynn Williams
Editor's note: Due to an uptick of cases since this story was originally published, we've included the most recent info. As of 9/25 at 1:00 PM, Powder River County has had 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 9 active cases. Broadus High School has changed to an online format for two weeks, due to staff members contracting the virus. All JH/HS activities through October 3rd have been postponed. Homecoming has been moved to October 19th through the 24th. Offduty staff at PR Manor have tested positive; the Manor is closed for visitation.
There has been an increase in respiratory illnesses in the area. Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory illnesses. When you don’t know for sure what caused your symptoms, take all precautions to prevent transmission to others. Those precautions are: stay home when you are ill, wash your hands often, cough or sneeze into your elbow/arm or Kleenex, wear a mask when you’re in groups.
Here is a reminder of the difference between isolation and quarantine and the reason for both. The timelines for each of these can be confusing.
ISOLATION keeps someone who is sick or tested positive for COVID-19 without symptoms away from others, even in their own home. The isolation timeline begins the day a patient develops symptoms, NOT the day they test positive. Here’s an example--Jane Doe begins to have mild symptoms on the weekend. Days later, Jane Doe decides to have a test. Test is done late in the week and results are received the following week. Day 1 of isolation is the first day of symptoms. I’ll use Sept 1 for simplicity. Jane Doe tested on Sept 4. Because of the symptoms, Jane Doe is advised to go home and isolate. Results of positive test are received Sept 8. The public is notified on Sept 9 of the positive case. On Sept 10 Jane Doe reports she feels much better and has had no fever for 3 days. In this scenario Jane Doe meets the criteria to be released from isolation on Sept 11, 2 days after the public is notified. IF Jane Doe’s symptoms had worsened or she continued to have a fever, she would remain on isolation until criteria were met. To be released from isolation 3 criteria must be met: at least 10 days since start of symptoms, symptoms are improving, no fever for 24 hours (without the aid of medication).
QUARANTINE is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department. The quarantine timeline begins on the last day of contact with the positive person and lasts 14 days. During this time the patient will monitor for symptoms. Testing is recommended for all close contacts of confirmed cases. But remember that a negative test does not mean quarantine is over. Because this virus can incubate up to 14 days, symptoms can develop days after a negative test. This is an example of why it is SO important to stay home if you are ill for any reason.
Who should get tested? Testing is recommended for anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, anyone who has had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) with someone with confirmed COVID-19, and anyone who has been asked or referred to get testing by their healthcare provider local or state health department. If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.
Currently the Montana public health lab is running at capacity, completing 3,000+ tests each day. They also use 2 reference labs for any overflow. The expected turnaround time for tests is 3-4 days for symptomatic individuals and 4-5 days for anyone who is asymptomatic.
Flu vaccine shipments have been delayed but are expected to arrive the last week of September. A schedule of flu clinics will be announced soon. As in past years, it is recommended that anyone age 6 months and older receive a flu vaccination. This year it is as important as ever to get a flu shot. By getting a flu shot you can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and thus lessen the resulting burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.