Gov. Steve Bullock has joined public health officials from across the state in activating the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force in anticipation of cases reaching Montana.
The Missoula City Council will also receive an update from the City-County Health Department on Wednesday morning regarding the virus and the state and local response.
In a statement released Tuesday, Bullock said Montana is monitoring the situation and taking steps to prepare and aggressively respond in the event that coronavirus reaches Montana. A number cases and deaths have been reported in Washington state.
“Today I announced the activation of the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force to bolster the state’s preparations and to ensure we are doing all we can to continue coordinating efforts across state government and aggressively respond,” Bullock said. “Montana has conducted similar public health responses in the past – we are prepared and will continue to be throughout.”
The task force represents a multi-agency group that will coordinate public health response, continuity of government and the communication between state, federal and local partners.
Adjutant Gen. Matthew Quinn will lead the task force on behalf of the Montana Department of Military Affairs, which includes Disaster and Emergency Services.
DES will engage agencies including the Department of Administration, Department of Commerce, Department of Labor and Industry, and the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).
The Governor’s chief of staff and budget director also will sit on the Task Force.
“As Governor Bullock has directed, we have to ensure our state is prepared for the potential affects coronavirus may have in our state,” Quinn said in a statement. “We are working to ensure agencies within state government are ready and able to support this public health response.”
According to Bullock, the Department of Public Health and Human Services is already working with local public health officials in monitoring 25 Montanans who recently returned from China for symptoms of novel coronavirus.
Monitoring of those potentially at risk is intended to catch signs of the illness at the earliest possible time and ensure appropriate care and precautions are taken to prevent spread while testing is performed, the state said.
“Our local county public health partners are truly on the front lines of disease surveillance, monitoring individuals potentially exposed to the virus, and keeping their communities informed,” DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said. “This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC is constantly reviewing and updating its guidance as needed.”
The Missoula City-County Health Department will share details of the virus with the Missoula City Council at 8:20 a.m. on Wednesday morning. DPHHS said it laboratory now has the capability of testing for the virus.