4/1/20 COVID-19 Update from Yellowstone County

[Music] [Music] counties in the state to report one of that one of our residents had tested positive for kovat 19 as of this morning again 20 days later Yellowstone County has 32 residents tested positive 208 montana's have tested positive for kovat 19:17 montana has been hospitalized and five state residents have died in an effort to slow the spread of this virus last Thursday on March 26th governor steve bullock issued an executive directive providing for measures to stay at home and designated designating certain essential functions his order of March 26 followed my amended health or office officer order of March 20th closing certain establishments within the boundaries of Yellowstone County both my order and governor Bullock's orders are in effect through April 10th 2020 these orders are enforceable by the county attorney and they have generated many many questions and calls to our public health information line some of the questions and calls relate to compliance with child custody visitation orders while others question if certain businesses should be considered essential still other callers report parties people playing in the parks basketball games things like that the governor's order prohibiting public and private gatherings of any number of people were put in place for a very good reason we need to preserve increasingly scarce resources in health care by reducing the number of kovat 19 infections that we that we see we're addressing you today from the county offices for a particular reason my health officer order as well as the governor's order are legally enforceable at this time I'd like to turn the podium over to County attorney Scott white up Thank You mr.

Felton thanks to everyone who came today I want to first start with my comments by thanking most of the residents of this community I think most folks are doing their best to be in compliance with their orders they're trying to exercise the social distancing practices that we continually are reminded of any time we turn on the TV or or listen to any reports this disease is now killing our Montanans it's wrecking our economy it's damaging this town that I grew up in the state that I love the law is written gives the governor and mr.

Felton our health officer the power to issue orders and the orders that they have issued likewise their orders and the law says that I is your County Attorney must enforce them and I will to do so I work in conjunction with the Old Stone County Sheriff's Office and the Billings Police Department now I'll explain a little bit about this violations of this order are punishable by fines in fact if you violate mr.

Felton's order you can be fined every day that you're in violation of an order these penalties include up to 90 days in jail I don't want to prosecute any of my fellow residents for any of these violations I want you to do your best to be in compliance I'm the last person that wants to have to put you in jail because you continue the violate these orders but I took an oath to follow the law and I will I'll do that to protect the community our health experts and the experts that consult with the governor have told us that these orders are necessary to protect us the law requires that these orders are complied with in the law requires that I enforce them I am asking you as a member of your community and as your county attorney do your best to comply with mr.

Dalton's orders and the governor's orders if you have any questions about them please do not hesitate to use the phone numbers that are readily available you can contact my office I will do the best I can to communicate with you but do not do not violate these orders take them very very seriously the law allows for penalties to be put in place in fact when these laws were passed there was obviously some thinking by our legislators as to why we have these things in place in fact the law takes this so seriously it gives mr.

Felton and the governor the power to essentially enlist law enforcement to help enforce their orders and if law enforcement and this doesn't happen very often in the law if law enforcement doesn't assist mr.

Felton they can be charged with a violation of the law that's how serious this is I know that the folks that have enacted these orders I know that the governor didn't want to do this and know mr.

Felton doesn't want to do this but he's they're doing this to protect you I implore you please follow these orders with that being said I would like to call up the lieutenant Brandon Wooley with the Billings Police Department thank you good afternoon thank you like the accounting a three-set my name is Brandon Wooley I'm the administrative lieutenant for the Billings Police Department I act as the public information officer and they're designated infection control officer during this event and I'll be speaking on behalf of chief st.

John today who unfortunately won't be able to make it here he's caring for a family member who recently had a medical procedure unrelated to covin 19 edition aliy I'll be speaking on behalf of law enforcement in general about the orders that were speaking about today first of all lemon law enforcement we stand behind these orders on a couple of reasons one legally because that's what we've been sworn to do and that's what's the statutes have outlined but then two is fundamentally we in law enforcement believe that this is necessary in the community we're also community members as well as you are and we want to you know do our part to do the greater good with this so that we're abiding by these orders to help enforce as necessary first of all before we get into kind of what this is going to look like because I think there's lots of questions of what law enforcement involvement is I want everybody to know that enforcement is not law enforcement first preference for this our preference is is for voluntary compliance education if you have contact with law enforcement and then after repeated or very egregious or blatant violations then we will work closely with the County Attorney's Office and the Public Health Department to issue citations and/or arrest at their directive kind of how this looks like is is all complaints violations still need to be directed through the public health hotline I believe it's six five 164 15 is that correct sir all all complaints still need to be routed through the public health office they will be monitored through the county attorney's office and then they will enlist law enforcement's assistance as necessary to help enforce those violations that were reported additionally on top of that we have directed all of our officers with the Billings Police Department that they are not to drive by or ignore blatant or egregious violations if they observe them while on their routine duties for patrol and we ask that they make consensual safe contact with those in violation and educate them about why we're taking these measures potentially providing them a copy of both orders and then leaving it that and that's going to be our primary first goal as is education and compliance with this order again if we do have repeated violations or blatant egregious we will create a report we will send that over to the County Attorney's Office and then we will communicate with them on any violations and/or citations that'll be issued underneath of that in on top of all of these complaints and the violations the police department is still actively doing business as it was before this event we're real still responding the day to day calls we're still enforcing traffic laws and those types of things okay some of the things I know people who might have some questions for is is what this doesn't look like and some concerns no we will not be setting up checkpoints no we aren't going to be driving around and just stopping people who are driving from point A to point B on the roadway one there's no authority for that into that's not the intent of of what we're trying to achieve for a community here however we will still be enforcing criminal laws traffic laws so if you see our officers out there pulling people over and talking to them it's in the routine order of business and law enforcement is business as usual as far as responding to calls and being there to serve the community the main difference is is we have adjusted some of the ways we respond to calls for service to help with the social distancing and to protect our officers and the rest of the community so I hope that clarifies of what law enforcement role looks like we stand by to assist the county attorney and the public health officers at their request and we will still be out there doing our job to help protect and serve the community thank you thank you I really appreciate the work of our law enforcement colleagues County Attorney Twyla sheriff Linder she's st.

John and Lieutenant William their team I just want to echo that nobody wants to see people get arrested and go to jail what we want is for people to voluntarily comply with these orders and and there's a really good reason for that the governor's order requires that gatherings be both essential and limited in size the governor's order is not an either/or it's a both/and and I think that's been some confusion so we've had some folks say you know it's a small group isn't okay it's got to be essential and it's got to be limited in size there's a reason why we stand before you today and talk about really serious things that quite frankly nobody wants to talk about as mr.

Trudeau said I didn't want to issue these orders I would bet money the governor didn't want to issue these orders but here's we have to understand the cost of failure to follow these guidelines is catastrophic this isn't just a oops we didn't do it this is catastrophic it's that the cost of failure is almost unimaginable yesterday The Associated Press reported that the White House projected between a hundred thousand and two hundred and forty thousand deaths from this coronavirus pandemic even if key that I mean even if current social distancing guidelines are continued think about this the midpoint of that range between a hundred and thousand and two hundred and forty thousand is a hundred and seventy thousand the equivalent of the death of every man woman and child in Yellowstone County over the course of a few months that's why we stand before you today to say this is this is serious and this is also important to know we are weeks away from the worst of this pandemic in our community the University of Washington model predicts the death toll in the United States will peak on April 16th with a projection being done on April 16th over 2, 600 Americans will die that day of coronavirus infection in Montana we expect a later peak we're a little behind the curve as as most rural states are our peak is currently projected on April 25th right now we have 5 Montana to have died of kovat 19 the projection is on April 25th nine people will die in Montana on that day and again these unimaginable measures these numbers assume that we continue the current measures that are in place the governor's order and and my help officer order and others around the state and it assumes that we as the population of these have the state of the nation adhere to those orders failure to follow these recommendations for a substantial period of time likely means more sick people increased demands on our already overstressed health care of social service systems and ultimately more families burying their loved ones this is not an easy time for any of us and the actions we take in the past few weeks and today will determine how quickly we're able to return to a sense of normalcy I urge everyone to refer to governor Bullock's March 26 executive directive for a list of essential businesses as well as my amended March 20th Health Officer order for further clarification of who's covered the current orders are in place through April 10th and both are subject to change because this is an extremely dynamic situation in the meantime I urge everyone to stay home only leaving for essential activities and necessities wash your hands thoroughly and often avoid touching your face avoid handshakes and hugs cover your cough and sneeze and frequently touch our clean high-touch surfaces with the disinfectant I wish things were different there's really no other way to help the community stay healthy and our healthcare system to be able to care for those who become ill than to slow the progress of this disease I've said many times that this will end and we will all see brighter days ahead if we all follow the governor's orders and my health officer order and the guidelines that you've heard over and over so many times we will all do our part to make sure that there are many more of us here when those brighter days arrive and with that we'll open for questions from the media we'd ask that when media members have questions please let us know who those questions are directed to there's a a website that was developed by the University of Washington I actually can't give you the web address right off but it it takes it shows projections for every state in the United States as a whole as to when we would anticipate peak yeah we have the testing kits are available right now in terms of the collection devices I'm not sure at the public health lab with their current capacity and burden or a number of tests they can run our but we do have testing supplies yes Greg the the the one that we have been looking at is newt is developed through the university of washington and it does go state-by-state and it shows information related to projected use it it defines the peak as the day of the number of highest deaths and and then also have some information there about projections for for availability of other resources i don't have that that link with me right now but it's pretty easy to find online did you say it was the 25th yeah the current it the current projected peak date in montana is april 25 yes this kind of strength better when they feel like they're being I'm looking at things like women's is announcing this year but that's not something until late Hawkins so I'm thinking from a realistic standpoint now this thing's been extended till April 10th shouldn't we expect this to go through the summer I don't think we know how long it's gonna go you know each each one of these countries have different approaches to their their methods of containment and mitigation I think we if we believe that the current modeling then certainly we should expect to have some degree of restriction in place well beyond April 10th what really what really is going to determine how we do though is what does the backside of that curve look like you know Yogi Berra once said that predictions are difficult especially about the future bear in mind this is a a novel virus this is a pandemic that we haven't seen since the 1918 Spanish flu and so there's a lot of mathematical models but all those mathematical models are built on a set of assumptions as to the the rate of spread the rate of recovery how long it takes so we we use those models to the best of our ability but it's really you really can't say exactly what this is going to look like in in two weeks or two or a month or two months well would you agree that most health professionals we probably advise to continue the discipline that's going the backseat yeah I think the the social distancing is always going to be a good idea the vaccine we don't know what the time is what we really need to watch is is what the spread looks like typically in an epidemic situation there is that first biggest peak and then you know it'll start to come down and then you'll have a few more waves one of the things that we've talked about in our community and across the state is when when these orders end and they will at some point but we will not go back to business as usual what we'll go to is a continued need for some social distancing some limitations on on large groups because the the virus will still be around okay so we I don't think you're gonna see us go straight from the end of the orders to business as usual this is going to take some time to sort of work its way through we're told that sneezes can travel 60 so I'm wondering why do I want to be in the landing though so I think what you hear is that six feet is the minimum there is nothing wrong with being farther away and I would encourage that I think the other thing that we have to keep in mind is we are social beings and as we distance ourselves that causes a huge amount of stress on people we need to find ways to stay in touch we got opportunity to stay in touch that we've never had before things like social media pretty much everyone's got a cellphone you you know I can tell you that I live less than a mile from my grandchildren and I see them on FaceTime so at this point farther away is definitely better well I'm also wondering there was discussion this morning dr.

pouchy and he was talking about asymptomatic people who are gonna show any any with that well they're not sneezing and coughing how are they transmitting he said well most likely through conversation would you agree conversation can affect you well certainly when people talk they express droplets that's why this the six feet distant isn't just for when you're around a sick person we need to be we need to be separated because that that those droplets do get expressed when people talk or or sneeze or cough so I think we don't know enough about this virus and I think it's important to remember we are in the 1st of April in this this virus is identified in early December so we are we are four months into understanding this virus as hard as it is we are far better served by being more conservative in terms of our responses than by being less conservative if we're going to be criticized as as individuals in society let's be criticized for going for being too safe and taking too many precautions than not being safe enough he wasn't wearing a mask and I'm wondering and you think that it would be prudent for food was that you'd be worried that so right historically what we believed about most respiratory viruses that get spread like this is that masking well people is not that does not produce any substantive benefit what's being talked about now the CDC and what I think dr.

couch is getting at is with evidence of asymptomatic spread the question is at what point does it become does it make sense to 2mass well people that is something that that experts in the viral biology and transmission are looking at right now and I think that's gonna where dr.

pouchy was getting right that's the idea if there's a symptomatic spread or doesn't make sense I think the other thing we have to bear in mind is we are facing a very significant limitation on personal protective equipment so I think I've said this many times in front of the media and in front of a lot of people and I think this is important for the public to understand we are not in a situation where we get to choose between a bad option and a good option we're in situations where we need to choose the best of the suboptimal options and and I think that's a definitely a place where that PPE question comes into play is is it better if we mask everybody arguably yes if that means that we don't have personal protective equipment for first responders and healthcare workers is that is that a price too high and that where everyone is still trying to work through those I I certainly do not pretend to be able to make federal decisions so I wouldn't comment on that okay go ahead yes that was reported I think last end of last week or over the weekend um I I think I believe we're still at one I know that there's a lot of interest among among people to get a lot of detail about folks we are not going to provide that for for legal reasons as well as ethical or moral reason two people have their rights to privacy so you'll get the very limited information and we've been able to release is all well up is all we can get that I believe that's our current status yes I've been a little hesitant with numbers because pretty much they change so rapidly that if if I tell you something now and you go whip up something a little while and it would be different than something any other media questions you get the sense that the public speaking that seriously okay that lieutenant will he first yes so that's a really good question um the overall feel when we talked to our officers and us being out there is that yes people are moving about their essential activities but we're seeing we're not seeing the increase in calls related to this so we can't see any patterns of changes of calls for service and that that kind of indicates to us that most everybody is doing what they should be doing and we're not having negative impacts from it and if anything we're seeing some positive effects from what's going on of people helping and coming together in the community with each other and the overall feel that we have from our officers is that there is everybody's doing what they need to do everybody's staying calm and we're not having those types of social issues that one would might think of or be fearful of what I would add to that is I agree I think most people are trying I think there was been a little bit of confusion about does if an activity is essential can you be in a large group if you're in a small group can you do not essential and again it's a both/and the governor's order requires that only essential activities be performed and that those essential activity to be performed in small groups so I think that little piece of confusion hopefully will get clarified and I think generally folks do take this seriously and are trying and we see a lot of people out walking these days any other media questions Oh [Music] yeah so there's no way to know what the potential number of cases could be because a lot of people have had very mild symptoms and they they would never report that ultimately we'll you'll be able to sort of mathematically figure out what the likely infection rate was but that doesn't exist yet we do when a case is deemed positive or people are at certain risk scenarios we do make recommendations for our requirements for quarantine or isolation I don't actually have a number of how many people have been affected by that many people choose to self quarantine and and we certainly wouldn't know about those as well any other questions from the media kind of what we're hearing from Gilligan County that they're seeing an uptick and domestic violence case that any of that ability so a Greg in fact we looked at some of the domestic violence numbers over over March in one it's too early for us to tell looking at the numbers day by day there's no consistency or pattern to what we normally experience from any other given month or comparison to last year's and so we don't have enough data nor have we heard officers who have the general feeling that anything like that is occurring and it's going to take us a little more time I think we need a bigger data set to be able to say or draw any conclusions to any correlation to this at all all right any any other questions from the media so what we get from particularly from the private labs Public Health gets notified of all positives we don't get notified of all negatives so somewhere those numbers exist because there's records of the orders but we we do not have immediate access to those numbers so I'm not sure how many have been sent out total fully controlled on one second things on the phone we got one more question here first go ahead yeah there's there's no relationship between the corona virus that causes the scope and 19 in the water supply so it's not an issue okay right okay so so the issue in Ballantine is related to contamination of the water supply that is not related to the corona virus the the water the the water system in billings is is doing the work they've always done to make sure we have a safe and clean water supply and it is fine and the question for you know so there's there was some initial before this order came out there was some Facebook postings about some groups that we're just gonna go ahead and have large group meetings in in violation of the order because they didn't believe in it we were monitoring that as well but anything if we drive by a park and you see a group of you know 20 or 30 people who are not practicing that social distance that would be a blatant violation egregious violations would be repeat offenses of such violations whether it be a business or a private citizen not following the rules of the orders and I think you can enumerate exponentially based off of those orders of what those scenarios could be thank you any last questions all right thank you very much to our media friends for being here and also for helping our citizens understand what these these orders require thank you yeah.

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