Missoula County commissioners: Defeating coronavirus takes resolve, community care

We grew up listening to our parents and grandparents tell stories of personal sacrifice during World War II: rationing, conserving, sharing and pulling together as families, communities and the nation to achieve victory against a common enemy.

While we’ve experienced multiple wars in the subsequent decades, rarely, if ever, have we as a nation experienced sacrifice on the home front at such a visceral and shared level until now. 

Today, the enemy is very different, but it requires every bit of resolve to defeat. But defeat it we will, and this is our moment as Missoula County residents — rural and urban alike — to rise to the occasion, digging deep to tap into our core Montana values of generosity and doing whatever is necessary to get a job done. 

Some folks have asked what the most important thing they can do to help in the current crisis. Our unequivocal answer: distance yourself from others. Now! We commend the governor for issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order and urge residents to follow it, as we continue to emphasize that the only way to stop COVID-19 is to keep at least 6 feet from others until our public health officials tell us otherwise. 

Just a few weeks ago, we’d never heard the phrase “social distancing,” but this is the best and only way to avoid a human catastrophe like what has played out in other countries and parts of the U.S. The fewer sick people there are, the fewer hospital beds will be used and the better our chance of not overwhelming our health care system. Stay at home; call in and pick up orders from stores; avoid groups other than the people you live with.

Other ways to help right now: reach out electronically to people who may be isolated; give blood; donate to the Missoula United Way so they can help our neighbors who are out of work; and do the things you know will keep you strong physically and emotionally. It’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. Get outside — Missoula County is still beautiful.

We take seriously our responsibility to protect public health and safety, and we’re doing everything in our power to collaborate with government and non-governmental partners on the COVID-19 response and adapt our emergency management systems to this unprecedented threat.

We’re assessing what county government resources can be redirected to address the public health, social and economic crisis upon us. While we will continue providing essential services, some projects will be delayed, some services may be scaled back, and some services will be delivered differently to protect county staff and the public from exposure. 

Through it all, we have not lost sight of the long game for our economy and communities. People are hurting, out of work, struggling with childcare and feeling isolated. Recognizing this, we’ve assembled multiple task forces to tackle these challenges: economic outlook, mental health, food security, volunteer coordination and fundraising. 

We will emerge from this moment of adversity, and, when we do, we must ensure we can hit the ground running and position ourselves for success. If you have questions related to Missoula County’s COVID-19 response or want to help, go to http://covid19.missoula.co/ or call the COVID-19 hotline at 406-258-INFO. 

Whether you live in urban Missoula or rural Greenough, and whether you’ve lived here your whole life or just arrived, we are one Missoula County, united in a common goal to care for one another and do everything to stay healthy for our families, friends and neighbors. We can do this!