Mayor Engen released from COVID quarantine; city preparing vaccine plan
A week after announcing that he'd tested positive for COVID-19, Missoula Mayor John Engen on Monday said he was released from quarantine over the weekend and was feeling relatively well.
During last week's City Council meeting, the mayor said he'd been infected with the virus, most likely after taking his mother into his home after she had contracted the virus.
“I got released from quarantine at midnight last night,” he said during a meeting with county officials. “Still a little weary with a slight lingering cough, but not bad at all, all things considered.”
Engen said he took all the recommended precautions over the past several months. City government has been meeting remotely since last spring after several City Council members expressed concerns over safety as the pandemic began to intensify.
Engen’s mother, who is 91, contracted the virus in early December. Engen said he brought her home to ensure her care and suspects he contracted the virus from her.
“I had considerable communications wishing me and my mother the best,” Engen said. “Had I taken folks up on their offers of food, I'd still be eating now. Other than feeling a little weary, I'm not showing any other signs of wear and tear, and neither is my mother.”
Since the pandemic set in back in March, more than 1,000 Montanans have succumbed to the virus. The Missoula City-County Health Department has said local hospitals are receiving an overwhelming number of calls from the general public asking for the vaccine.
Engen said his office has also received a large number of calls from the public inquiring on the distribution of a vaccine.
“We're working on ensuring that we have a plan that provides for efficient distribution of the vaccine,” Engen said. “Today, there are few doses available in Missoula at the health department. They're getting those out the door with some additional urging. We believe we'll have partners in Missoula's hospitals as we move toward mass vaccination.”
The vaccine is not yet available to the general public, and Gov. Greg Gianforte has altered the state's plan for distribution. At the city's urging, Engen said the governor has added first responders to the priority list.
“We had asked that his restructuring of the state's priorities for vaccine distribution included those first responders, particularly law enforcement,” Engen said. “We should have first responders covered, which is a bid deal operationally for public safety.”