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Engen on virus response: “These are complicated moving parts”

(KPAX) As the effects of the coronavirus pandemic reach the local level, it’s time to think about how the community will respond.

MTN News sat down with Missoula Mayor John Engen on Tuesday who said that while it’s all hands on deck, he wants the community to know that Missoula is in good shape.

Schools are closing, restaurants and bars have been forced to change their operations, and employees are being told to work from home.

Missoula is now seeing the effects firsthand as the coronavirus evolves within the U.S. “We’re concerned about daycare, displaced workers, folks who don’t have a home today,” Engen said.

Throw in economic impacts and screening limitations, and the city has a long list of obstacles to overcome.

“One of the things that I’m concerned about, and that we’re working on, is ensuring that these folks who are experiencing what we hope are relatively short term layoffs aren’t overly burdened,” said Engen.

“With the federal programs that are in place and with some local action, I believe we’re creating a safety net for those folks. In the meantime, it’s absolutely stressful, but we’re working on it,” he added.

Working behind the scenes the last few days, Engen said he’s been developing and adjusting policy based on the evolution of this virus.

“These are complicated moving parts,” said Engen, “and some of what we’re doing is unprecedented. The beauty is as government agencies we plan for these scenarios pretty relentlessly, and so we have systems in place where we can kick up facilities and programs on the fly.

Engen said the community should feel good knowing how sound our local healthcare system is. But he does want to address one major concern on everyone’s minds.

“The supply chain for food in the United States is in great shape, so while your instincts may be to rush to Costco or somewhere else to stock up on all manner of stuff, just be reasonable about that,” Engen said. “You don’t need to prepare for Armageddon here, I think you just need supplies in case you’re hunkered for a while.”

For folks at home this week who are struggling with the reality of this pandemic, Engen said Missoula that as a community, we’re resilient.

“Everything that is happening today is temporary, and I think remembering that it’s temporary is important. When you’re in it, when you’re in the middle of it, it can be overwhelming, but the fact of the matter is that we’ll overcome this,” Engen said.